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V. 16 

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llUttiiiS iiiSilifiii;/!! iiiAUi 

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Oliver Johnson's 

As Related By 
Howard Johnson 




The price of this Publication is One Dollar. 

Members of the Indiana Historical Society are entitled to 
one copy of each of its Publications without charge. 

The Publications are available at the Office of the Society, 
408 State Library and Historical Building, Indianapolis. 








Oliver Johnson's 

As Related By 
HowARD Johnson 




Copyright 1951 

By the 

Indiana Historical Society 


It is comparatively ea^y, when driving through Brown 
County, to imagine Indians and wild animals lurking in the 
wooded hills. It is something else to realize that a large part of 
Indianapolis was once forested, that Fall Creek had no bridges, 
tlmt grist mills dotted the suburban areas, that a bear was chased 
down Thirty-eighth Street, and that children could get lost in 
going from the east side of the present State Fairgrounds over 
to a log school on Central Avenue. 

In the belief that members of the Society Tmll enjoy an 
authentic account of what life was like in the capital ''city'' in 
the 1820' s and 18^0's, the Committee on Publications is pleased 
to offer Howard Johnson s report of his grandfather' s remi- 
niscences of early Marion County. 



ixtroductiox 143 

1 . The Endless Trees 147 

2. To Build a Cabin 149 

3. Clearing the Land 153 

4. The Fireplace 160 

5. The Spinning Wheel 167 

6. Ills and Aches 171 

7. The Three R's 174 

8. Early Grist Mills 188 

9. Hunting Tales 195 

10. Fights and Shooting Matches 208 

1 1. The First County Fairs 214 

12. Driving Hogs to the River 218 

13. How I Met Your Grandmother 225 

About the Writer 230 


Oliver Johnson frontispiece 

Map of the "Johnson Country'* 146 


WHEN I was a youngster, my family lived in part of my 
grandfather's big house, and my father operated his 
farm. It was located along modern Central Avenue, in Indi- 
anapolis, between Forty-second and Forty-sixth streets. This 
was not my grandfather's original farm. He had come into 
Marion County in 1822 as a baby, with his parents and grand- 
parents, and had grown up on the family farm located on what 
is now the Indiana State Fairgrounds. The Johnsons were 
among the earliest settlers in the county and have seen their 
farms absorbed by the expanding capital city. 

According to family tradition, Jeremiah Johnson of 
Virginia married Jane Lawson after the Revolution and 
migrated in the wake of the Boones to Bryant's Station in 
Kentucky with two slaves. There several of their ten children 
were born, including a son John on January 1, 1798. Appar- 
ently preferring free soil, the family left its slaves behind and 
moved into Indiana Territory shortly after it was created in 
1800. They settled a few miles north of Harrison, Ohio- 
Indiana, just within the line. There John Johnson grew up, 
met Sarah Pursel, daughter of Peter Pursel, of Brookville, and 
married her about 1818. A daughter was born to them in 1819. 

In 1818 the central section of Indiana was cleared of Indian 
title, and the savages were allowed three years in which to move 
out. So in 1821 this New Purchase was opened for settlement. 
At the same time the state legislature, meeting at Corydon, had 
created a commission to locate a new capital closer to the 
geographical center of the new state. The commission's choice 
of the White River-Fall Creek junction was approved in 
January, 1821. 

Early in the spring of that year, Jeremiah Johnson and 
three of his sons, John, Tom, and Jerry, traveled to the site 
of the new capital and found half a dozen cabins already 



erected. Jeremiah and sons Tom and Jerry located land about 
two miles north, in the vicinity of Martindale Avenue and 
Nineteenth Street today. John Johnson decided to bring his 
wife and small daughter to an eighty-acre tract on the west 
bank of Fall Creek which later became the State Fairgrounds. 
The four men cleared a patch of land on the father's farm and 
planted corn. They also built a cabin during the summer and 
cleared more land. In the fall, after shucking the corn, they 
returned to their families near Harrison ready to make the 
move. John Johnson found he had a new son, born November 
21, 1821. He was named Oliver and is the grandfather of 
whom I spoke in the beginning. The family moved to their 
farm near Indianapolis in March, 1822. Thus my grandfather 
literally grew up with the city. 

Grandfather was fifty-two when I was born, and lived to 
be eighty-six years old. Consequently, I knew him well as a 
boy and man. He was never too busy or too tired to refuse 
his grandchildren a story, or to make us almost anything we 
wanted to play with. This led us to think that "grandpa" was 
the most wonderful man in the world. He could make the 
best wagons and sleds you ever saw. He made bows and 
arrows for us that would kill squirrels and rabbits. He showed 
us how to make Indian suits and moccasins, how to trap and 
skin and tan hides, how to make fringe for hunting shirts 
and leggins. 

Then when the fierce storms rolled up from the west, and 
it got so dark and the lightning flashed and the thunder and 
wind shook the big frame house, and we were frightened, he 
would pull us up on to his lap and tell us stories. Also, with 
his big hands he could rub away almost any pain or ache; 
especially pains associated with green-apple time. 

As we grew up our association changed. When we couldn't 
work the ground because of wet weather, he took us on hunting 
and fishing trips. He also let me use his tools and help him 
make things in his shop. But I got the greatest thrill of all 
listening to his tales of ''old times," as he called them. 



After I was grown and married and living in part of his 
house and operating his farm, as my father had done before 
me, we would spend evenings going over those same old stories 
with renewed zeal. It was then that T conceived the idea of 
wTiting them dow^n. 

In 1907 I moved my family from grandfather's house to a 
farm on Seventy-ninth Street where I still live. Here I repeated 
to some extent my grandfather's experience of clearing land, 
plowing new ground, building fences, etc. Recently, I built 
myself a log cabin in the woods in the pioneer manner. Grand- 
father's stories meant more to me now, as I had a better 
understanding of what he meant. Persuaded to rewrite them 
in sequence and as if he himself were speaking, I turned out 
the following pages. Through the encouragement of my 
nephew, Albert L. Fessler, and the generous interest of the 
Indiana Historical Society they are now available in print. 
I am grateful to both. 

Since grandfather is the narrator, he is the 'T" of the 
account. 'Tap" is his father, John Johnson (1798-1854), and 
"mother" is his mother, Sarah Pursel Johnson (1802-1848). 
''Grandpap" is Jeremiah Johnson, whose dates are not known. 

Howard Johnson 




It's hard to picture this part of the country as I first remember 
it. Here and there was a cabin home with a little spot of 
clear in close by. The rest of the country was jist one great big 
woods for miles and miles in most every direction. From your 
cabin you could see no farther than the wall of trees surroundin 
the clearin ; not another cabin in sight. 

You might think it a lonesome place to live, but it wasn't 
to us. Bein brought up in the woods we didn't know any 
other life. Then another thing helped: families was big them 
days. With twelve of us children in the family there was 
always plenty of entertainment. As for the woods itself there 
wasn't a lonesome spot in it. There was plenty of wild life at 
all times to keep a feller company. There was where we got our 
supply of meat, and there was where we got our greatest 
pastime and pleasure — huntin. There was where we got our 
buildin timber for cabins, timber to make ox yokes, chairs and 
tables, fence rails, and lots of other things. Firewood was 
there just for the gettin. 

On the land layin between Fall Crick and White River was 
some of the finest timber you ever saw. Big walnut and sugar 
trees mostly. The settlers used to call this section of the county 
the Sugar Flats, on account of the many big fine sugar trees. 
Lots of them showed the scars where the Indians had tapped 
them in the springtime for sugar. Other trees were gray and 
blue ash, white, burr, and pin oak, all good buildin timber. 
There was no red or jack oak to speak of in our parts, but 
there was plenty of beech, wild cherry, mulberry, hackberry, 
and pignut hickory, though very few shellbark hickory. 

Yellow poplar, the finest buildin timber of all, grew mostly 
on the high ground over toward White River. Some poplars 
got as big as four and five feet through. I helped cut a big 



poplar tree when I was grown up that made a rail fence forty 
rod long and nine rails high. There was three kinds of elm 
trees : the water elm, now we call it the American elm ; the red 
elm, that's the one where you get the slippery elm bark; and 
the hickory elm that grew tall and straight without any lower 
limbs and made mighty good buildin timbers, too. On the 
bottom land was the big sycamores, the soft maples, and the 
box elders. Then there was the smaller trees, such as red and 
black haws, wild plum, redbud, dogwood, buckeye, and the 
pawpaw which bore such good fruit. 

There was also a second growth of saplins of all kinds 
strugglin along under the big trees tryin to take their place. 
Growin close to the ground was the spice bush, prickly ash, 
leatherwood, hazel bushes, wahoo, and others. Great patches 
of May apple, turkey peas, bloodroot, wild onions, ginseng, big 
ferns, and dozens of other wild flowers carpeted the ground. 
Masses of wild grapevine clung to the trees, some of them as 
much as eight or ten inches through and wound around a half 
dozen trees or so. In the more open spots grew wild rye and 
wild pea vine. The deer liked to feed on these vines, and they 
made good grazin for the settlers' cows also, both summer and 
winter. Them and what leaves and twigs the horses and cows 
browsed took the place of hay, for there was no grass anywhere 
and none raised till we got more ground cleared than needed 
for corn. The trees and bushes made such a dense shade in 
the summer that grass couldn't grow. In the winter time the 
snow would sometimes lodge on the branches, leavin the ground 
bare, except for leaves. The mass of leaves fallin every year 
covered the ground. Then the rains and shade kept the leaves 
a wet slimy mess most of the year. That is the reason we 
didn't have any forest fires. There was swampy places all 
through the woods on account of the leaves holdin the water 
like a big sponge. 

There was a bigness and a certain mouldy or woodsy smell 
to a forest that's hard to describe, but to us it was mighty 
sweet and satisfyin. 



THE first thing on hand, after movin into a new country 
Hke this, was to build a cabin to live in. If you was lucky 
like we was, to move in with somebody, and you was always 
welcome in every home, you could take a little more time in 
buildin a cabin. 

Some, who wasn't so lucky, had to make a lean-to out of 
poles alongside a big log and cover it with leaves. Here they 
could sort of camp while they was buildin. Most always there 
was a neighbor or two w^ith their boys willin to help a newcomer. 
With a good crew of men it wasn't such a big job. Some 
would go to the woods, fall the trees, and cut the logs into the 
right lengths. Somebody w^ould bring an ox team and drag 
up the logs. First thing to do in startin the cabin was to drag up 
a big rock for each corner to rest on. Then we had a "raisin." 

If there was plenty of help, the four best ax men was put one 
on each corner. They done the notchin to make a neat fit. All 
hands helped to roll the heavy green logs up in place. Our cabin 
was eighteen feet wide and twenty feet long, which was about 
the universal size in our locality. It was made out of hickory 
elm logs about twelve inches in diameter, because that was the 
kind of timber that was growin close by. Later on when 
hewn log houses was built, poplar was the timber most used. 

Two side logs w^as flattened a little on the bottom and 
placed on the rocks. A saddle was cut on top of these logs, to 
receive the notch that was cut on the ends of the end logs. Then 
a saddle was cut on top to receive two more side logs, and so 
on up until the cabin was about eight logs or eight feet high. 
When you come to the gables, the end logs was shortened. Long 
straight logs runnin lengthways of the cabin and spaced about 
three feet apart was notched in to lay the roof on. The roof 



was clapboards, split from straight-grained oak cuts, three or 
four feet long. A tool called a froe, which was a heavy knife 
with a handle stickin out at right angle, was used in makin 
clapboards. The oak cuts was stood on end ; then with a mallet 
the knife was drove down in the end of the block following 
the grain. With the handle you started to pry and follow the 
split on down to the bottom of the block. If you didn't know 
your knittin, you was liable to split out before reachin the 
bottom and spoil the board. 

Clapboards was six or eight inches wide and a half to three- 
quarters of an inch thick. They was laid in rows across the 
roof logs, beginnin at the bottom and spaced apart a little. A 
second row was laid over to cover the spacin cracks. Above 
them on the roof was another row of clapboards overlapping 
them below. Then a weight pole was placed on top of each 
row of boards to hold them on. These poles was notched into 
the gable logs at either end so they wouldn't slide down. There 
wasn't a nail used in buildin a cabin. 

If you wanted a loft, big poles was run across the top side 
logs to lay a floor on. There was plenty of open places under 
the clapboard roof where the snow would blow in sometimes, 
but that didn't matter much. If you slept in the loft, you pulled 
your head under the covers durin a storm. When you got up 
in the mornin, you shake the snow off the covers, grab your 
shirt and britches, and hop down the ladder to the fireplace, 
where it was good and warm. 

Doors, winders, and fireplace openin was all cut out after 
the cabin was up. It was easier to do it this way. Savin timber 
wasn't any item anyhow. Mostly two doors was made, one on 
each side of the cabin. A winder or two was cut. The floor 
was made from puncheons. They was boards two or three 
inches thick, split out of straight-grained oak or ash, and laid on 
sleeper logs or joists. After the floor was pinned down it was 
gone over with an adz and smoothed up a little. Even then you 
sometimes got a splinter in your bare feet. Casin made from 


puncheons was pinned to the ends of the logs at door and winder 
openins to hold them in place. 

The door was made from puncheons pinned together and 
hung on wooden hinges made of a block of wood and a pin. The 
latch was a big wood bar fastened at one end across the inside 
of the door. The other end dropped into a slot on the casin. A 
hole was bored through the door jist above the latch, and a 
leather thong fastened to the bar could be pushed through this 
hole. In the days of Indun trouble this thong was pulled inside 
at night so nobody could get in. Other times it hung outside so 
you could lift the latch. The old sayin ''The latch string is on 
the outside" meant you was welcome. The winders was jist 
wooden strips across the openin with greased paper pasted on. 
This made a right good substitute for glass and let in more light 
than you would think. The grease kept the rain from softenin 
up the paper, but it had to be renewed every once in a while. 

In one end of the cabin an openin six or eight feet wide and 
about five feet high was cut out for the fireplace. The hearth 
was made with wet clay pounded down till it was good and 
hard. Then a boxlike frame of puncheons was fastened to the 
ends of the logs to hold the clay walls of the fireplace which was 
laid up with mud cats. There wasn't any brick or lime, and we 
couldn't use rocks because they would split all to pieces with the 
heat. Mud cats was made of a handful of wet clay with a little 
dry grass mixed in to hold it together. You kept workin it till 
it got good and tough, then you squared it into a brick about six 
inches wide. When the back wall and jams was laid up with 
mud cats to the top of the frame, the chimney was started. It 
was cribbed up out of oak sticks, two laid one way and two the 
other, with a layer of soft clay under each stick. As you was go- 
in up with the chimney, you kept reachin down on the inside and 
the outside with handfuls of soft clay to smear on a good coat. 

The heat and the rain would cause the clay to fall out. When 
that happened you had to tear down the chimney and build it 
over. Once in a while it would catch fire, and then you had to 

Ui^ilVLkSiTY OF IlLIhU^ 


run out and grab a pole, jam it back of the chimney and pry till 
it fell over. 

Another job was chinkin and daubin all the cracks between 
the logs. Chinkin was drivin short split pieces of wood between 
the logs, wedgin them in by drivin one on top of another, sort 
of slantwise. Then soft clay was daubed or plastered over the 
chinkin both inside and out. If you wanted to add a finishin 
touch you could drag your fingers aloHg the soft clay, leavin 
a fluted effect. 

Some of the first beds was just poles poked in holes bored in 
the logs and restin on a stake at the outer corner. Poles or pun- 
cheons was laid across this frame to support a mattress. Tables 
and benches was rough, handmade affairs, too. Puncheons 
were smoothed off for tops, and poles fitted in holes for legs. 

Water was a big item in locatin a cabin site. If there wasn't 
a spring close by, you had to dig a well. We was lucky in the 
Sugar Flats. You could get a good well most any place by 
diggin about eighteen or twenty feet down to clear water in a 
clean gravel bed. Wells was walled up with flat rocks. A box 
about three feet high, made of puncheons, was built around the 
top. Back a piece from the curb a forked post was set in the 
ground. Restin in this fork was a long pole with a rock weight 
on the outer end. A wild grapevine takin the place of a rope 
was fastened around the other end over the well. The vine was 
tied to a wooden bucket. This outfit was called a well sweep. 
To get a bucket of water, you pulled down on the grapevine 
until the bucket filled with water, then the stone on the other 
end of the pole helped bring the bucket up. Once in a while 
a lizard or toad would jump down in the well, but we jist 
fished him out and forgot about it. Might not a been the 
purest water in the world, but a lot of us stayed purty healthy 
and lived a long time drinkin it. 

When your cabin and well was finished, you had a mighty 
snug and comfortable home. It hadn't cost a cent either. It 
didn't look very fancy, but it served the purpose right well of J 
housin a big happy family. 


AFTER the family was moved in the cabin, the next thing on 
hand was clearin a patch of ground and gettin in a crop 
of corn. There was no question about meat. The woods was 
full of game; all you had to do was take the rifle and go out 
and get it. But the settler's staff of life was corn bread, 
and to get it you had to overcome old mother nature with the 
ax and fire and hard work. Seemed like a everlastin job, too. 

The first clearin was done in a "hurry-up-and-get-in-a- 
crop" style. Two or three acres was all that could be cleared 
the first year, even with some help from a neighbor. These 
first clearins was called "eighteen inches and under." That is, 
all trees under eighteen inches in diameter was cut down ; them 
over that size was left standin. This was to save time. All 
the small trees was cut up and piled around the standin trees. 
Grubs was dug out with a grubbin hoe, and with the brush was 
piled on the log heaps. It was quite a trick to pile all that green 
stuff so it would burn. Limbs had to be trimmed flat and laid 
straight and close, or they wouldn't burn. Even at that it took 
a lot of pokin and 'Vightin up" and smoky eyes and burned 
faces before you got rid of all this green stuff. 

When the firin was done, the standin trees was also killed 
and stopped drawin life from the ground and shadin the growin 
corn. A lot of blackened and burned trunks was left standin, 
but they didn't bother any more than the stumps ; we jist 
plowed around em the first year. A lot of brush was piled 
around the edge of the clearin to fence out the family cow and 
the deer so they wouldn't eat up the corn. 

That first year's plowin was enough to ruin the disposition 
of a preacher. With roots a poppin and a crackin and flyin 
back on your shins, draggin the heavy old plow around them 



green stumps, gettin fast under a big root then flyin outa the 
ground, the clearin was a hairy, scratched-over mess when you 
was done. It looked more like a bunch of hogs had been rootin 
there. About all the cultivatin done on that first crop was with 
the hoe. One good thing: there wasn't any weeds. But the 
ground would come up full of all the wild flowers and ferns 
and such that grew in the woods. Sprouts would grow around 
the green stumps. Kept you hoein all summer. Then the 
squirrels and the birds jumped in and took a big toll. You was 
lucky the first year to get enough corn to supply meal for the 
family until next crop time. 

After the first year clearin was done by a system that saved 
lots of work. We deadened the timber and left it standin a 
few years until it got dry enough to burn. Deadenin a tree, or 
"girdlin" as it was called, was cuttin a ring around the tree with 
an ax. This shut off the sap from goin up to the leaves. ^lost 
of the girdlin was done in the summer. Some folks thought 
that all deadenin had to be done in the dark of the moon durin 
June, July, and August. I don't know how much the moon 
had to do with it, but I know that trees girdled certain days 
durin the summer months would show wilted leaves in an 
hour or so. 

We always had about three deadenins, one, two, and three 
years old. That gave us a new one each year to make and one 
ripe one ready to clear and burn. In choppin the dead trees 
down a good timber man could throw a tree just about where 
he wanted it to go. With a bunch standin fairly close together 
we had a way of cuttin them almost off, then fallin the last one 
in such a way that it would strike the others and all would go 
down in a heap. It was dangerous work, fallin trees ; but you 
hardly ever heard of a accident. 

After the trees was all down there was one great big brush 
pile. At the first dry spell we started fires wherever one could 
be started. They would burn for days and get rid of a lot of 
limbs and brush. The trunks and big limbs wouldn't burn until 


they was rolled together. Whenever we could, we cut small logs 
in two and yanked them around crossways of a big log and 
started a fire where they crossed. This was called ''niggerin 
them off." The smaller top log was the nigger. If you could 
burn both logs in two, you saved a lot of choppin later. We 
wasn't concerned about the destruction then. What we wanted 
was corn fields. We had started raisin hogs, and they had to 
have corn, too. There was no market at all for timber. 

Everything was now ready for the big day of the log rollin. 
Sometimes I think those rollins was more for a general neigh- 
borhood get-together of talkin, banterin, eatin, and maybe a 
little whisky drinkin throwed in, than it was for jist rollin 
logs. Folks was notified of the day by puttin a boy on a horse 
and sendin him around the neighborhood. 

Bright and early on the day set here they come. Forty or 
fifty men and women folks and children. About as stout and 
jolly and rip-roarin a set of men as you would want to see. The 
women folks, of course, went to the cabin to prepare the dinner 
and gossip. The children played around. Each man was sup- 
posed to bring a handspike, which was a tough, seasoned saplin 
about six feet long and three inches through, tapered some at 
each end. 

Generally, two or three companies was organized, dependin 
on the number of men. Each company chose a captain and 
was assigned an ox team with a driver, a chain man, and two 
or three handspike men. The balance of the men w^as divided 
into handspike squads of ten or twelve men. The ox-team 
gangs tackled all the big logs. Their job was to pull them out 
of their beds in the ground and start the heaps by rollin them 
together. Handspike squads carried any log they could lift on 
them spikes. When they reached the heap, the men on one side 
would let down their spikes and step out of the way ; the men on 
the other side simply lifted and tilted the log over in place. 

Each company would try to outdo the other. Handspike 
squads would boast that they could pile more logs and outlift 
other squads. The biggest boast of all — and it could be looked 


for before the day was over — came when someone let out the 
challenge that he could pull down any man who wanted to get 
on the other end of his handspike. He most always got a taker. 

I was helpin at a rollin one time when the greatest show of 
pullin down come off, I believe I ever saw. We had a right 
good start that mornin when two men showed up a little late, a 
man and his son. Both was big chaps and both was known for 
their mighty strength on a handspike. They sauntered over to 
our squad, spoke and joked a little while we rested on our 
handspikes. Then right out of a clear sky the older man said : 

"Let me on the end of one of them handspikes. I can pull 
down any man on the other end." 

There was a young man on our squad, not over big, but well 
built and all muscle and gristle, who grinned and said to his 
partner : 

''Get off and let him have the other end of this spike." 

Well, we was surprised and afraid our young feller had 
bargained for more than he could handle. We never said 
nothin though; just walked over to a good-sized log, laid our 
handspikes down and rolled it on, and lifted it up. Jerry, the 
challenger, and our man was up front. Then the boss said : 

"All right, boys, let em have it!" 

We let down on our handspikes and give em the load. Well, 
Jerry grunted and puffed and turned red in the face, and done 
his best. Our man jist held on as if he was made of iron and 
had no give in him. After a bit you could see Jerry's shoulders 
begin to round. Then his handspike started to go down. He 
hung on as long as he could, when all at once down he went on 
his knees. We caught the log, but Jerry had to be helped up. 

We hadn't any more than got Jerry on his feet when his 
boy, a chap as big or bigger than his father, steps up in kind of 
a huff and says : 

"If you're able, I'll take you on." 

Well sir, our young feller just straightened up, swung his 
arms some to get the stretch out of em, looked at Jerry's son 
kind a f ightin like, then spit on his hands and said : 


"Git on!" 

We brought the same log up again and at a word from the 
boss let em have it. You never saw such liftin. Looked like 
their backs and legs just swayed not knowin which way to go. 
W'e thought this time our champion had met his match, but we 
noticed Jerry's son's shoulders begin to hump a little. Then 
a sickly look come into his face and down he went jist like his 
Pap. That made our man champion of the day. All this liftin 
was done in a good-natured way. Jerry and his son admitted 
they was beat. Both men was down in the back so bad they 
had to go home. 

A custom of the day, and one we always expected at a log 
rollin, was the water boy with a bucket of water in one hand 
and a jug of whisky in the other. Some three or four times 
in a half day he made his rounds. Everybody tipped up the 
jug and took a snort of whisky and followed it with a gourd 
of cool water. We thought a snort of whisky now and then 
braced us up some and put a little more lift in us. Anyhow it 
braced us up. Nobody thought anything about it. Nobody took 
too much while workin ; if he did he was considered a hog. 

A big dinner went along with a rollin. In the afternoon as 
the day of the rollin drew to a close, some one who was good 
at mixin drinks was sent to the house to mix a bucket of eggnog 
for the jollification that wound up the day. When the blackened 
and tired men gathered at the cabin waitin for supper, they 
drank eggnog, and hard as they had worked wasn't too tired to 
banter each other to wrestle, throw the maul, hop, or even run 
races. After a hearty meal they all went home happy as larks 
and ready for another day. 

The clearin wasn't ready for the plow until all small chunks 
and pieces was picked up, and what grubs was left was dug out 
and piled on the log heaps. No fires was started when work of 
any kind was goin on, of course ; the smoke would run you out 
in short time. The heaps had to dry out a few days and then 
the fires was lighted. 

It was a purty sight to see all them big piles of logs a burnin, 


especially at night. Such a poppin and a crackin and a shootin 
of flame and sparks high in the air! The big fires would 
throw out so much light it would turn darkness into daylight. 
The heat and smoke would be so bad you couldn't go near for 
a day or so. When the fires did die down enough, we went in 
with our handspikes and righted the heaps by pryin and pushin 
the logs up together so they would keep burnin. Log heaps 
would burn and smoulder for several days. In fact, there was 
nearly always a burnin or smoulderin log heap around a settler's 
cabin when he was clearin land. It was a good place to get live 
coals if the fire went out in the fireplace. 

When the last log heap burned out, the clearin was ready 
for the plow. Of course, there was plenty of stumps left; they 
had to stay there until they rotted out. There was no dynamite 
then to blow them out, and it would have been an endless and 
back-breakin job to dig them out. Some would burn out when 
the ground got real dry and the stump was doty with age. We 
had to plow around them as long as they was there. 

After gettin a start in a new country, most settlers managed 
to have a yoke of oxen and a horse or two for work animals. 
The horses was mostly for ridin. Pap had his ridin horse and 
mother had a gentle one she rode. That was about the only 
way of gettin around on account of there bein no roads, just 
trails through the woods. When we went to mill we had to 
ride. When mother went visitin, she rode a horse. She would 
bring old Nell up longside a stump, hop up on the stump and 
mount, then have one of the bigger children get up and hand up 
the smallest one in front, then two of us bigger children 
mounted behind mother. She would go trottin down the trail 
to the Collins or the McDonald cabins, holdin one child in 
front and two of us hangin on behind, and think nothin dif- 
f'rent than if it was a buggy ride. 

Oxen was the main work animal. They was mighty good 
for plowin a new wild piece of land. They was slow, but they 
could stand the heavy work l3etter'n horses. They wasn't so 
fretful in a new ground full of stumps and roots. They moved 



slow and careful, keepin about the same gait all day long, which 
made it easy on the plow and the plowman. They could be 
turned out to look for their food and would browse on what 
a horse would go hungry on. 

Oxen was less trouble to hitch up than horses. The only 
gear you had to bother with was a yoke and a log chain. You 
carried the yoke up to the off ox, that's the one that worked on 
the right-hand side, drew the bow out of the yoke, lay one end 
of the yoke across his neck, slip the bow up in place, hold it with 
your knee, and slip the key in place on top. The near ox, the 
one that works on the left-hand side, wouldn't be far away. 
Call him — ''Buck, Bright or Berry," whatever his name might 
be, "Come on under here." Draw the bow, hold the end of the 
yoke up, and no matter from what direction he came, he would 
walk right up and put his neck under the yoke. You didn't 
have to worry about them gettin scared and runnin off by any 
noise or loud talk while yokin them up. They would stand 
there with their eyes half shut and chew their cuds, like they 
didn't care what you w^as doin. After you hooked the big log 
chain in the ring underneath the yoke, you was ready to go. 

You don't use any lines drivin oxen. Just a short-stocked 
whip with a long lash. If you wanted them to turn to the right, 
holler "Gee!" keen and crack the whip over to the left of their 
heads. For turnin left, holler "Haw!" and do the same. They 
minded well, even better'n horses. A good yoke of oxen was 
worth about the same as a good horse — forty to fifty dollars. 

For haulin, most every settler had a big, strong, heavy-made 
two-wheeled cart. You could go places with an ox cart you 
couldn't get through with horses, such as through woods and 
brush. Oxen would just bat their eyes and keep on goin, payin 
no attention to the brush and limbs whackin them on the back. 
Horses wouldn't stand for that. 


BuiLDiN a fire in a fireplace so it would throw out heat wasn't 
a matter of jist throwin in a armful of wood haphazard- 
like. There was only one way, and that was the right way. 

First, you rolled in the back logs : as big a one for the 
bottom log as the fireplace would take, then a smaller one on 
top. For these logs we used green or partly seasoned timber so 
it would burn slow and last longer. Buckeye made good back 
logs. These backlogs not only protected the clay back wall of 
the fireplace but they would throw out lots of heat when the 
front fire became a mass of live coals. Green backlogs would 
last for several days. 

The andirons, or dog irons as we called them, was then 
shoved up against the back logs. Then a good-sized piece 
called the forestick was laid across the front of them. Between 
the logs the fire was made. The forestick kept burnin pieces 
of wood from rollin out on the hearth and also let a draft 
under the fire. 

Most fireplaces was right good sized so they would take 
big sticks of wood. One of our neighbors had one so big it 
almost took up all the end of the room. When he put on a 
new backlog, he drug it through the house with a horse that 
went in a door on one side and out a door on the opposite side. 
Then the log was rolled into the fireplace by hand. 

At night you could keep a fire by bankin it down with 
ashes. In the mornin pull off the ashes and there was a good 
bed of coals to start a new fire. We had no matches them days, 
and it was a lot of trouble to start a fire with flint and steel, so 
we aimed to keep some log heaps burnin in the clearin most of 
the time for a place to get coals if the fire went out in the 
fireplace. If all fires was out at home, a boy was sent to a 
neighbor to borrow a shovelful of coals. 



The fireplace was right handy when the women wanted to 
sweep the room. They would begin at the back of the room 
and sweep toward the hearth. All the dirt would be in the fire 
in short order. Though we had candles, a good blazin fire of 
an evenin would make enough light to work and read by. Fire- 
places had the reputation of burnin your face and freezin your 
back, but there was nothin to hinder a person from turnin 
around if he was a mind to. 

We lived mighty happy and contented in the early days. 
With a good snug cabin, a big fireplace, and a supply of corn 
meal on hand, there wasn't much to worry about. Our big 
family spent many a pleasant winter evenin settin around a 
blazin fire while the wind and the snow cut capers outside. 

Pap would be settin in his usual place to one side of the 
fire, chewin terbacker, and spittin in the fire. He wasn't much 
to talk then. Sometimes he would set there by the hour and 
never say a word to anybody; just chew and look into the fire. 
I often wondered afterward what he was thinkin about, if he 
wasn't sometimes tryin to imagine what this part of the country 
would look like in the future. Pap was luckier than some of 
the older ones. He could read. If he could get hold of a 
newspaper, no matter if it was back date, he would read evenins. 
He had an old history of the world that he had read so much 
the pages was wore through where his thumb rested. 

Us boys would pass the evenin cipherin on our slates, 
parchin corn, whittlin out something with our knives, or if you 
was big enough to handle a rifle, mouldin bullets. We could 
do most anything, jist so we didn't make any noise. That 
Pap wouldn't have. If any started, he just tapped his foot on 
the floor about three times. That was enough ; we understood 
mighty well what it meant. 

Mother and the girls would spin and knit. They was kept 
purty busy makin clothes for the family. Most everybody 
went to bed early and got up early them days. There wasn't 
much chance of wearin out your sociability of evenins. 

Occasionally a neighbor and some of his family would 


drop in to set by the fire and chat a while. If there was any 
grown girls in the family and the visitors was men folks, it 
wasn't uncommon about bed time to hear the father say : 

"Boys, step outside while the gals go to bed." 

When you went back in the cabin, every girl was under the 
covers, head and all. And you didn't look too close at them, 

Fireplaces not only furnished heat for the cabin, but there 
was where all the cookin was done. 

Swingin from one of the jams was a crane fitted with 
three hooks of different length so a pot could be hung high or 
low over the coals for different heat. The crane could be 
swung out or in from the fire when puttin on or takin of f a pot. 

A iron pot or two, a skillet, or spider as we called it if it 
had legs, a griddle, and a squatty-lookin pot known as a Dutch 
oven about summed up the cookin tools needed for fireplace 
cookin. Hangin on the jam was a long-handled fire shovel 
and a pot hook for reachin in and takin off lids, so you wouldn't 
burn your hands. 

When mother started a meal, everybody had to scatter back 
from the fireplace out of her way. She was a little woman, 
and it was a wonder how she could pick up them big heavy 
spiders with one hand and carry them around with such ease. 
And how she could handle the fire shovel — puttin just the right 
amount of coals around a pot to give the proper heat. And 
she never dropped the lids she lifted with the pot hook. Some- 
times a few coals or a little ashes would get in the cookin, but 
that didn't matter; we thought it just helped season it some. 
While it wasn't a very handy place for the women to work, it 
was surprisin what a good meal could be scared up on a fireplace 
and with so few things to do it with. Their faces and hands 
got purty brown cookin before an open fire, but nobody thought 
anything of it for they all done the same work and all looked 
alike. If they had been any other color, we'd a thought they 
was either sick or aristocrats. 

We wouldn't a lasted long without corn meal. Corn bread 



was our staff of life. For several years we had it in some 
form for breakfast, dinner and supper, never tirin of it. Corn 
bread was made in several different ways. As I remember, 
there was corn dodger, which was corn meal mixed with water, 
salt, and butter and baked in a spider. Johnny cake was mixed 
the same way, but baked on a clapboard tilted up before the 
fire. Turnin a Johnny cake wasn't so easy to do. Mother 
would take hold of one end of the clapboard, give it a little 
shake to loosen the cake, then flip it up in the air to turn it 
over and catch it on the board. Then it was set before the 
fire again to finish bakin. 

Hoe cake was mixed about the same as Johnny cake, 
flattened out with the hands, and put on a griddle to bake. 

Corn pone was scalded meal mixed and put in a warm place 
to raise. Then it was mixed with punkin and let raise again. 
It was baked in the Dutch oven. Corn meal mush was a big 
favorite in the early days. Mush and milk was a common meal 
at supper time, and fried mush for breakfast. Many a time us 
children went to bed on a supper of mush and milk and not a 
thing else. Some people wouldn't think they could get along 
on corn bread every meal, but we did for years and grew up a 
right strong and husky bunch. 

Lye hominy w^as another corn dish. It was corn grains 
soaked in lye made from wood ashes, biled until the hulls 
come loose and was rubbed off by hand, soaked in cold water 
until the lye was all out, then cooked. 

We didn't have to worry much about meat. Some settlers 
brought hogs in when they took up land. They was turned 
loose in the woods to feed on mast and herbs they rooted out 
of the ground. Mast is acorns, beechnuts, chestnuts, and other 
nuts. The lard was so strong that mother used butter instead 
for cookin. The meat was strong, too, and there was plenty 
of wild game we liked better. At first, deer was plentiful and 
it was on the table so often we got tired of it. After I got big 
enough to handle a rifle, mother would often say to me: 


''Son, I wish you would run down in the bottoms and get 
me a turkey for a change." 

I wouldn't be gone more than a hour before I'd be back with 
a gobbler for her. 

The woods was full of squirrels. You could go out most 
any time and get a mess. We used only the hind parts and the 
backs of em. There was also lots of grouse — pheasants, we 
called em — which we thought about the most tasty meat of all. 
Once in a while someone would kill a bear and divide it around 
among the neighbors ; but that meat was sort of strong and oily. 
Fall Crick and White River was full of fish, like suckers, red- 
horse, cat fish, bass, perch, salmon,^ buffalo, and red eye. We 
didn't bother much with a hook and line. Pap always kept a 
good canoe. If we wanted a mess of fish, all we had to do 
was grab the gig, jump in the canoe, pole up and down the 
crick a few times; if the water was clear, you was purty sure 
to spear a mess. 

Every family had some chickens. They took care of them- 
selves, feedin in the woods and roostin in the trees. They was 
kept jist for the eggs. We considered wild turkey and pheasant 
much better to eat. The family cow furnished the main bever- 
age as well as butter and cottage cheese for the family. Once 
in a while she was the start of a mighty good ox. 

For emergencies mother would jerk venison and turkey 
breasts. The meat was sliced thin and hung over a bed of coals 
to half dry and half cook. Then it was hung in a cool place 
for future use. 

It was a universal custom for the women to tend the 
garden, just as they always milked the cow. We had garden 
stuff of most all kinds. Potatoes and punkins was the most 
important. Tomatoes, called to-mat-us-es, was raised only for 
ornaments to set on the mantle ; they was supposed to be poison 
then, so we never eat em. Punkins was used in several ways. 
They was stewed, put on plates, buttered and eat. Sometimes 

* Wall -eyed pike were sometimes called salmon, or jack salmon, in 
Indiana by the early settlers. 


mother fried pnnkin. It was stewed, spread on clapboards and 
dried before the fire for winter use. We also made punkin 
molasses. The punkin was allowed to freeze, then the juice 
was squeezed out and boiled down. While mother was dryin 
the punkin I would beg a little of her, run it through the 
cullender, dry it before the fire, cut it into small strips and roll 
it into tight rolls. This was called punkin leather. It was 
mighty handy to slip in your pocket and nibble on at school. 

One other important part of every garden was the two or 
three rows of terbacker to furnish the smokin for the old 
women and the chewin for the men folks. About all the men 
and the bigger boys chewed terbacker. 

Pap always made a good supply of maple sugar. The trees 
was tapped the same as the Indians did it, the sap ran out in 
handmade troughs dug out of the short cuts of logs, and it was 
boiled down in a big kettle until it grained into sugar. Pap 
would never waste any sugar water to make molasses. What 
he was lookin after was the sugar supply, as the maple sugar 
was the only kind of sweet'nin we had. 

There was plenty of wild grapes, wild plums, and wild 
gooseberries in the woods. They was made into sass. But no 
pies, for there was no flour to make the crust. Wheat wasn't 
raised for several years. The ground was so new and rich it 
would grow up all straw and fall over by cuttin time without 
makin any grain. Besides that, the first grist mills had no way 
to bolt the flour. Then agin, I think the older people liked 
their three-times-a-day corn bread so well that they didn't 
want anything that would take its place. I remember when 
mother started makin wheat bread; Pap fussed around about 
it and said he would jist as soon skin a hackberry tree and eat 
the bark. Our first white bread was salt risin, for there was 
no yeast then to make any other kind. For biscuits, we made 
a substitute for baking powder by burnin corn cobs and usin 
the ashes. 

Mother soon found that if she was goin to do much bakin 
for our big family she would have to get a bigger oven and one 


with more heat. So Pap went out back of the cabin and made 
her one. He first built up a platform out of puncheons, about 
eighteen inches high and four feet square. On this platform 
he made a holler cone out of clay. On one side was a door. 
Opposite the door and a little higher up was a hole for draught 
and smoke. The oven was heated by buildin a fire inside of 
good dry wood. When mother thought it was hot enough, she 
would rake out the fire and brush out the ashes as best she 
could. Then she would test the heat by throwin in a finger or 
two of flour. If the flour browned to suit her, she put in the 
bread and closed the door. The heat in the clay walls done 
the rest. 

We didn't use store tea and coffee. It was hard to get, but 
the main reason was that everlastin shortage of money to buy 
with. Sometimes mother made tea from spicewood and sassa- 
fras. A right good substitute for coffee was made from 
parched corn. 

Our table was mighty simple and plain, consistin of pewter 
plates, tin cups, iron spoons, knives and forks. The forks had 
but two prongs. From long usage some of the forks had a 
prong missin. Yet we got along purty well them days. We had 
our ups and downs, but nobody went hungry and nobody done 
much complainin. We just about lived off the land and was 


WHEN I was a youngster, all our clothin was linen. We 
didn't have any sheep for several years on account of the 
wolves. Besides, the woods w^as so full of burrs, briers, and 
brush that the wool would a been ruined. A few of the older 
folks wore buckskin britches and huntin shirts, but Pap and 
mother saw that our family had linen clothes. 

Most families put out a half acre or so of flax every spring 
so they could make their own linen. Flax grew somethin like 
wheat or grass. In the late summer when it was ripe it was 
pulled up by the roots and spread on the ground to dry. Then 
it was bound in bundles and stored away until fall, when it was 
again spread out on the ground to let the fall rains rot the inside 
or heart of the stalk. The outside fiber would remain firm. 
After the rottin process, it was again bound up and laid away 
until brittle cold weather, when it was run through a hand 
breaker. Then it was scutched or swingled by graspin a bundle 
in one hand and layin it across a solid board. With a wooden 
knife in the other hand it was whipped and beaten until all the 
dry heart of the stalk fell out leavin only the outside fiber. 

The fiber was then drawn through a hackle, which was a 
board with a lot of sharp spikes stickin up, until all the seed and 
root ends was jerked off. Drawn through a finer hackle, the 
fiber split up into fine silky strands. The bunch of them was 
wound around a distaff and the flax was ready for spinnin. 

To spin, one end of the distaff was stuck in a hole in the 
frame of the spinnin wheel. The spinner then started the wheel 
with her foot and with one hand started the flax by pullin a 
little from the distaff. With the other hand she fed it on to the 
reel. The thread was gauged as it passed through the fingers. 
If it felt too big it was jerked back to draw out the fiber thinner. 



If too small it was given a quick jerk from the distaff to feed 
on more. As the thread passed over the spinnin wheel it was 
twisted and wound on to a large spool. If a thread broke, the 
wheel was stopped, the two ends frayed out with the thumb 
and finger then pressed together, the wheel was started, and 
you couldn't tell where the break was. 

The thread was reeled off in skeins and biled in lye to bleach 
and soften. It was now ready for the weaver. We didn't 
have a loom. Pap thought mother had enough to do takin care 
of a big family. So our weavin was done by a neighbor woman 
who made a business of takin in weavin. The linen cloth was 
made into dresses for the women and girls, and shirts and 
britches for the men and boys. Underwear was somethin the 
men and boys didn't have for several years, or until we started 
raisin sheep. We wore linen summer and winter. If you got 
too cold, you put on two shirts and two pair of britches — that 
is, if you had em. 

All bed clothes, towels, table cloths, and women's stockins 
was linen. jMother spun her own thread for sewin. If we 
wanted a fish line, mother spun that, too. 

Soon as we got to raisin sheep we had lots warmer clothin 
for winter. After shear in the sheep, which was done by the 
women, about an inch of wool was cut off to get rid of the 
burrs, and the rest was washed in soapsuds. When dry it was 
picked by hand into small loose and fluffy bunches. Then it 
was carded, or drawn through small sharp spikes much like the 
flax hackle, until the fine hairs was all pulled out straight. Then 
it was made into rolls and spun into thread same as flax was, 
only the spinnin wheel was bigger than the flax wheel. Mother 
had three small wheels and two large ones so the girls could 
help spiM. When enough thread was spun, it was taken to the 
weaver and made into cloth. Sometimes mother colored the 
thread ; then we had plaid goods. 

Mother made us boys an everyday coat or jacket called a 
wamus. It buttoned in front like any other coat, but had a 
long, divided skirt, or tail, in the back. \\'hen we got cold we 


would bring the tail around and tie it in front. That also kept 
the tail out of the way when workin. 

Instead of neckties, men wore a stock if they wanted to look 
dressy. It was a big silk or satin affair, sometimes pleated, that 
covered the chest and run over the shoulders and buttoned in 
the back. It extended up until it almost touched the ears. Pap 
had one but laid it aside ; said it was too dressy for him. When 
I was about grown I picked it up and wore it out. 

Men's hats was made in the hat shops in the towns. The 
prevailin hat for dress was the tall, bell-crown style. Some of 
them was a sight to see ; they was so big and tall and hairy. For 
a dozen or more coon hides, a hatter would make you a hat out 
of half of them, keepin the other half for his pay. He sheared 
the hair off the hides and mixed it with a sticky preparation of 
some kind, beat it into a stiff mess and spread it over a form 
or hat block. More hair was spread on to make the nap. When 
they was smoothed up they looked purty slick, but when they 
got rained on they fuzzed up like an old mad coon for sure. Pap 
never would wear one; said it made him feel stuck up. He 
always wore a plain, broad-brim wool hat. Boys wore that 
kind. too. Some coonskin caps was worn, but not many with 
the tail left on. They was worn only by men like Uncle Milt 
and others who hunted a lot and wanted to hang on to the 
Indun f ightin days. In the summer time, boys went bareheaded 
mostly. If we w^anted a straw hat, we braided long strips of 
wheat straws and got mother to sew them together, v^orkin in 
the shape as she sewed. The first headwear for women was 
ordinary sunbonnets. Soon as dress goods was wagoned up 
from river towns they made bonnets about all shapes and colors 
imagined. Big red bandana handkerchiefs was also worn on 
the head by women. 

Pap made all the shoes for our big family. He would work 
on shoes only of evenins. They was for winter wear. In the 
summer most everybody went barefoot, especially the women 
and children. Some wore moccasins made from ground hog 
hides. In the fall Pap would go to town and buy or trade for 


a half side of sole leather and a half side of upper leather. 
Mother's and his shoes was always made first, then shoes for 
the girls. Us boys come last. Sometimes he didn't get to us 
bigger boys until purty late in the fall. I guess he thought it 
made us tough and healthy to go barefoot in the frost. As I 
was the oldest boy, it would be up toward Christmas before I 
got any shoes. 

Sometimes us older boys would go to school half a term 
barefooted. On frosty mornins in the fall we would heat a 
clapboard before the fireplace until it was almost charred, stick 
it under our arm and run through the frost until our feet began 
to sting. Then we threw the clapboard on the ground, stood on 
it until our feet warmed, grab it up and make another run. This 
way we would reach the schoolhouse in purty good shape, not 
sufferin much from the cold or thinkin much about it. 

I remember goin over to Uncle Ben's one time to play with 
my cousins. (He was mother's brother.) We'd had a cold 
spell and the crick was froze over. I walked across the ice in 
my bare feet. Another time I remember when Pap finished my 
shoes on Christmas eve. I was so tickled with em I put em on, 
run out of the door and tore around the house to try em out. 
I forgot about the ice that had formed around the well and the 
water trough. When I hit that slick spot with them new shoes, 
I got a fall I never did forget. 

Grown girls would want to fix up a little when they went 
to meetin on Sunday. They would carry their shoes and stockins 
in their hands until they come in sight of the meetin house, then 
slip em on. After meetin was over they wouldn't be more than 
out of sight when they'd take em off. They was mighty proud 
of their shoes, but they was so used to goin barefoot their shoes 
felt a mighty sight more comfortable carried in the hand. 


BECAUSE of the newness of the country, the way we lived, 
and the plain food we eat, sickness in the early days was 
somewhat diff'rent from times later on. There was few 
doctors then, and they didn't know too much about what was 
the matter with us when w^e got sick. Besides, they didn't 
have the proper medicines or tools to doctor what they did know 
about. In many cases, if a person didn't have the body or the 
backbone to whip a sickness, he just didn't pull through. People 
died and nobody knew what was the matter with em. 

There was a lot of home doctorin and a lot of granny 
remedies used. Some might have done some good, but a lot of 
em didn't amount to much. The most common complaint, and 
the one dreaded the most, was malaria. Agur, or chills and 
fever, we called it. Most everyone had a spell of it in the fall. 
It w^as so common that country people actually shaped up their 
work in the late summer before they got down with the chills. 
If agur couldn't be broke in its early stages, it would last for 
several months. Most times it run its course anyhow. The 
only cause we could lay it to was the dense damp woods and 
the rotten logs and leaves. 

There was about four kinds of agur ; at least that was the 
way we had it divided up. The most severe attacks was called 
**the shakin agur." About the same time every day you had a 
chill that lasted two hours. Heat, blankets, or nothin else would 
make you warm or stop you from shakin. After the chill come 
the fever, which stayed with you the rest of the day. 

Another form of agur come on with a lighter chill : sort of 
a coldness of the body and not much shakin. It was followed 
by fever. 

A still lighter form was the every-other-day agur. The 



chill and fever would be on one day, and the next you'd feel 
purty good. In some cases the chill wouldn't hit for three 
days, after you thought maybe you was pullin out of it. 

Light cases of agur was called "the slows." You went 
around feelin draggy and no account. Most all attacks of 
agur finished up with the slows. You'd feel so weak it was 
an effort to walk. 

In severe cases, and after agur run too long, a hard place 
would form in the side called ''agur cake." That was a sign you 
was purty bad off. Doctors wasn't called much for agur. Home 
remedies was used. One was a tea made from a herb called 
boneset, followed by a tonic made from poplar, wild cherry, dog- 
wood, or prickly ash bark mixed with whisky. Another remedy 
was ginseng roots and whisky. About the hardest to take was 
made by fir in a rifle until the barrel was black from burnt 
powder, then f illin it with water to stand overnight. You drank 
the powder water. But, as the Indun said, ''No hurt, no cure." 

A good cathartic for grownups was made by bilin down the 
sap from white walnut trees. For flux and other bowel 
diseases, alum root biled in milk was used. 

Children's complaints was doctored with teas made from 
spicewood, sassafras bark, or peppermint leaves. When apothe- 
cary shops come to Indianapolis, the medicines they handled 
was called botanical remedies because they was made of herbs 
same as our home remedies, only they was more effective. 
Calomel was one of these store remedies used a lot by the first 
doctors. There was a Dr. Stipp^ who prescribed calomel as 
soon as he had a look at you, no matter what the ailment was. 
It was such a sure thing that when he called, people called it a 
round of "Stipp an calomel." Another store remedy was called 
"No. 6." Another was "Thunder an Lightnin," biled down, 
and it sure was. Bayberry bark was also used in medicines. 
Then came Sappington's Pills, which became a universal 
remedy for agur. 

' Dr. George W. Stipp was a practicing physician in Indianapolis in 
the 1830's. 


Most all doctors believed in bleedin them days. First thing 
they done was have you roll up your sleeve, grab a broom handle 
to extend the veins, then they would proceed with the operation. 

Accidents, like cuts and broken bones, was usually took 
care of at home. I remember when one of my younger brothers 
fell and broke his arm. Pap carried him to the house, examined 
his arm, then whittled out some thin poplar splints and bound 
them on his arm. It wasn't long till his arm was good as ever. 
Another time I slashed my shin with an adz, makin a nasty- 
lookin cut. After a few days my leg started to swell right 
smart. Mother said it didn't look very good. A traveler come 
along and stopped at our house. He said he could heal my leg 
if we would bring him a basket of beech leaves. He put the 
leaves in a pot and biled em for an hour or so. Then he put 
em around my leg as a poultice. In a day or so the swellin 
v\ ent down and my leg started to heal and got all right. Might 
be my leg was ready to heal anyhow. But people had a lot a 
faith in their remedies, and I reckon that helped some, too. 

We didn't know much about dentists then. If you had a 
toothache, you either grinned it out or hunted up a doctor and 
had it pulled. If there was no doctor handy, and it ached so 
bad you couldn't stand it, you could go to a blacksmith and get 
him to knock it out by settin a punch agin it. Then with a quick 
lick of the hammer you got rid of the ache and the tooth too. 
That didn't hurt any more than a doctor cuttin the gum loose, 
then pryin around with a big pair of pinchers that slipped off 
several times. 

People got old lookin purty early in life them days. No 
doubt chills and fever was one cause. Raisin big families 
brought the women down right fast. The men generally out- 
lived their wives. The exposure and hardship of frontier life, 
along with the lack of knowin what to do for sicknesses, no 
doubt shortened manv a life. 


EARLY schools wasn't much. If a neighborhood wanted a 
school they got together and started one. I reckon I was 
about seven years old (1828), and my sister Louisa, who was 
the oldest of us children, was about nine when Pap and some 
of the neighbors got together and decided to build a school- 
house and start some learnin for their youngsters. 

There was no danger from Induns any more. They had 
left except for now and then some friendly ones travelin or 
comin to trade. The neighbors held a meetin and elected three 
men to be trustees. Pap was one of them. The trustees was 
to build a schoolhouse, hire a teacher and provide for his board. 
All questions comin up between the master and the patrons was 
to be settled by the trustees. 

Pap offered a location for a school on the north part of our 
place which was about centrally located for most families, al- 
though some of the children would have a long walk through 
the woods. ^ The men and the big boys of the neighborhood 
got together and in a few days built a log house without a cent 
of outlay from anybody. The room was about twenty feet 
square, plenty big enough to take care of the twenty or thirty 
boys and girls who would be comin. On one side of the buildin 
was a door. Opposite it was the master's chair and table, both 
handmade. In one end was a big fireplace. In the other end 
was a rough board shelf put on wood pins that stuck out from 
the logs. This was the writin table. For light a log was taken 
out just above the writin table and wood strips pinned up and 
down across this openin. Greased paper was fastened between 
these strips. When you went to the writin table you had to 
climb over the top of the benches so as to set facin the table. 

" The location was on the north side of the present State Fairgrounds, 
where farm machinery is now exhibited. 




The benches was made from slabs split from logs. Legs 
was put in the flat side, leaving the round side up for us to sit 
on with our short legs. One leg was put in the middle of the 
bench to keep the boys from teeterin. Them benches got purty 
tiresome after settin a long time. They also got purty slick on 
top from our slidin around on them. If you wanted to rest your 
back you could sort of hunker down with your elbows on your 
knees and slide back a little to get your feet off the floor. Once 
in a while a scholar would slide back too far, lose his balance, 
and flop he would go on his back on the hard puncheon floor. 
We had no desks. Your two books and your slate was kept on 
the floor under your bench. No one had any certain place to 
set. On cold days the big boys and girls would give the benches 
nearest the fire to the little ones. 

Teachers, or schoolmasters as we called them, was somewhat 
of a problem to get. Nearly all of them was single men. They 
wasn't lookin for land or a permanent location, like men with 
families. They was more of a rovin class. Some was right 
well educated and turned out to be mighty good fellers. Some- 
times we got a master who wasn't as bright as some of the big 
scholars. It appeared like they had failed at everything else 
and then took up teachin. There was no such thing then as a 
woman teacher. It wasn't a woman's job, any more than milkin 
a cow was a man's job. Then agin it took purty much of a 
man to handle the big boys and girls. 

The only way we got any schoolmaster was to wait until 
one come along lookin for a place. If the trustees took a notion 
to him, which they generally did, they told him to draw up his 
article and go around in the neighborhood and see what signers 
he could get. If he got enough signers to satisfy him he was 
hired. The article usually offered a term of three months, 
December, January, and February, and he got his board and 
pay. The charge for a full term was fifty to seventy cents a 
scholar. Some families would sign up for only half a term for 
big boys, because they had to help at home cuttin wood, goin to 
mill, and such. Some little folks lived so far away that they 


was signed up for half a term, as they could go through the 
woods only during good weather. 

Durin the term the master boarded around different places. 
A big family, with several children in school, boarded and 
roomed the master longer than a small family. 

After our first log school was built and we was lookin 
forward to our first school, no master come along. There was 
a young man in our neighborhood who said he could teach the 
school. He wasn't the best feller in the world and he didn't get 
many signers, but the trustees was so anxious to get the school 
goin that they hired him anyway. He taught about two weeks 
when the new buildin caught fire at night and burned to the 
ground. It caused quite a flurry in the neighborhood. Some 
said the master was careless. Anyway, that ended my first 
school term. 

The next fall rolled around and no new schoolhouse was 
built. Some wanted a school while others was unconcerned 
whether their youngsters got any learnin or not. Finally a man 
named Hawkins, who lived about a mile and a half northwest 
of us, said he would have a school at his cabin if people wanted 
it.^ He was gettin up in years, but had taught some in his 
younger days. He lived in a double cabin with jist his wife 
at home; that give him room to hold school in his kitchin or 
livin room. The trustees told him to go ahead and sign up 
what scholars he could. Even though it was a long trip through 
the dense woods for Louisa and me, Pap signed for us. 

Master Hawkins was a big fat man, jolly and good natured. 
He wasn't very strict, and we done about as we pleased. I 
reckon we learned a little at that. H the weather was bad at 
noon we set around where we pleased to eat our dinner, while 
Mrs. Hawkins went ahead and got their dinner as if we wasn't 
there. Anything like a nice day and us scholars got outside to 

* The Hawkins cabin stood within a few feet of the southeast corner of 
School 70, Central Avenue and 46th Street. For years a depression in the 
ground on the north side of the road indicated the location of the old well. 


eat. I don't think there was more than twelve or fifteen of us 
going to that school. 

Somethin funny happened at that school along toward the 
end of the term when the sun w^as warmin things up. Master 
Hawkins had a habit of settin in the doorway durin the noon 
hour when the sun shined down nice and warm and takin a nap. 
Us scholars was playin around out in front of the cabin, when 
someone noticed a frog hoppin along purty close to the master. 
We soon saw the cause of its hurry when a garter snake come 
crawlin from under a puncheon that laid out in front. The 
master always w^ore buckskin britches that stood out at the 
bottom like a sailor's trousers. Well, the frog spied the mas- 
ter's legs a stickin out there on the ground and them big open 
britches which I reckon he took for a holler log. In he went for 
a good place to hide. That cold frog on the master's bare leg- 
was mighty awakenin, for he grabbed his britches leg with both 
hands and danced around like a wild man. We tried to tell him 
what it was, but he couldn't hear anything. Mrs. Hawkins 
come runnin out when she heard the racket and got him in the 
house. He was kinda got when he shed his britches and found 
a frog squeezed to death. We all had a good laugh at the 
master, and he took it in good humor, but we noticed he didn't 
take any more naps in a open door. 

The winter that sister Louisa and me went to the Hawkins 
school we traveled all the way through the thick woods. There 
wasn't any road, so Pap blazed a trail for us. We didn't have 
any trouble goin or comin until long about the last of the winter. 
One mornin it was snowin ; one of them heavy wet snows that 
sticks to the trees and everything else it falls on. Mother was 
uneasy about sendin us, but Pap thought we would get along 
all right. Things was purty white when we started out, but 
we trudged along for quite a piece before we noticed that the 
trail and the blazed places was gettin harder to see all the time. 
That was when we wandered off the trail. We wasn't much 
excited about it, as we knew a young man who lived about 
straight east from the schoolhouse and by that time would have 


reached school. So we decided to head straight north and pick 
up his trail in the snow, which we did, or thought so. 

The snow was fallin harder all the time and his tracks didn't 
show very plain, but we figured we could get to school before 
they was covered up. After follerin them a while we come to 
a big tree top and a lot of bushes all covered with snow. The 
tracks sheared off and went around them and didn't straighten 
out but kept on windin and twistin around. At first we thought 
the young man must be lost. Then we thought the tracks might 
be that of a bear. We both started to cry, knowin we was lost. 
But both bein purty hardy youngsters and knowin quite a little 
about the way of the woods, we soon braced up and decided to 
f oiler them tracks, since they would take us some place. We 
kept on windin around through the woods for quite a while. 
Finally we come out into a clearin and there right before our 
eyes was a cabin. 

We was so tickled we couldn't hold ourselves. We was so 
turned around and upset we was sure we never saw that cabin 
before in our lives. We ran up to the door and knocked and 
who should open it but Aunt Polly, Uncle Milt's wife, our 
nearest neighbor. She took us in and petted us up some and 
sent us home. We found that the tracks we had been follerin 
was made by Aunt Polly's cow as she browsed around the 
woods on her way home. 

Pap and mother was some excited about our story, and 
tickled too. Pap wanted to know why we didn't take time to 
eat our dinner, as it was after noon when we reached home. We 
hadn't thought about eatin anything; we had just clung to our 
dinner buckets all the way. We learned afterward that when 
the young man whose tracks we was follerin had come to that 
big tree top, he walked straight through under the snow on 
almost dry ground. Aunt Polly's cow went around the bushes, 
and we got switched off. 

There was a new turn in school matters the year after we 
went to the Hawkins school. The next spring some families 


from Pennsylvania and Maryland settled on land over to the 
east of us. They was right thrifty people. They couldn't think 
of a country without schools for their children, so they started 
in right away on buildin a schoolhouse for school that fall. 
They got together with Pap and Uncle Ben and others on our 
side of the crick, and this time the school was located on Uncle 
Ben's land across Fall Crick."' 

School started off that winter with a new master, who was 
a stranger to our parts, and a goodly number of scholars. It 
was the first organized school, if it could be called such, that 
was held in our neighborhood. Readin, writin, 'rithmetic, and 
spellin covered the full course of studies. A Webster's spellin 
book served for both readin and spellin ; half the page was 
spellin words and the other half was readin lesson. A Pike's 
'rithmetic, a slate and a slate pencil finished the equipment of a 
scholar. On the writin table was foolscap paper, quill pens and 
ink. We made our own pens and ink. Black ink was made by 
bilin down the bark from a soft maple tree. Red ink was made 
from pokeberries. 

School took up about six o'clock in the mornin. People 
believed in gettin a full day out of a master when they hired 
him. School would open by the master callin : 

"Come to books!" 

Then we all started a rush and a scramble for our seats. It 
didn't make any difference how much noise you made, just so 
you set down some place. The first lesson in the mornin was 
'rithmetic. We just worked our problems to get the right 
answer. Scholars would be strung out through the book ac- 
cordin to how bright they was, no two of them on the same 
lesson. Some would get purty well through the book, while 
others never got very far. Sometimes one of the older scholars 
could solve a problem the master couldn't. 

About the middle of the forenoon and agin in the after- 
noon the master would say : 

* This school building was on the east side of Fall Creek about a quarter 
of a mile south of the present bridge at Thirty-eighth Street. 


*'Get your writin lesson." 

Then there was a scramble for the writin table. The little 
ones, of course, didn't write. The master had a copy ready for 
each scholar. He would give instructions how to hold the pen 
and how to shape and shade the letters. More attention and 
more interest was givin to writin than any other study unless 
it might be spellin. 

To recite spellin, the scholars was called out, one at a time, 
and asked how far they got. That might be as far as you 
pleased. Then the master had you spell and pronounce from 
the book. Then he would take the book and pronounce to you, 
and you spelled. 

Readin was gettin up and rattlin off the lesson. Some 
would read a whole lesson without a pause and in about two 
breaths. Little attention was given to punctuation. The only 
corrections was on pronouncin or leavin out or substitutin 
words. If the master got short of time you might read twice a 
week, and then again it might be twice a day, just as he felt 
about it. 

Little ones had primers. Their only work was to learn their 
A, B, C's. About the only time they got to recite was when the 
master got through with the big scholars in time. Then he 
would call one up and stand him between his knees. With a 
pointer he would point out a letter for the scholar to name. 
Little ones recited all the way from once a day to once a week. 
In most of the early schools, scholars studied out loud. That 
sure made a terrible uproar in the room. Some tried to see 
how much noise they could make. I remember one girl who 
could drown out any voice in the room when she was gettin her 
spellin. When she opened up, you'd just as well lay your 
book down. 

Early schoolmasters was mighty strict in some things and 
used the gad purty often, especially if they was in a bad humor. 
They wasn't very particular about your lessons or how much 
you stayed away from school, for they didn't have to bother 


with you then. We caught it for a lot of things that struck 
the master's fancy to give someone a Hckin for. 

Turning Out the Master 

While every family recognized Christmas in a religious 
way, there was no doins at home in the way of givin presents 
or celebratin the day. We went to school Christmas and New 
Year's if they fell on a week day, just the same as any other 
day. But it was a custom, common in all country schools, for 
the master to give his scholars a treat and a vacation when 
Christmas come around. No presents was handed out, and 
there was no such things as candy and oranges. A master's 
treat was generally the same every Christmas : apples and 
ginger cakes. 

Sometimes a master made no preparation or straight out 
refused to give a treat. Then it was the custom for the scholars 
to lock him out or turn him out on Christmas mornin, and keep 
him out of the schoolhouse until he did agree to treat. This 
was so much a custom that the trustees and the parents upheld 
the scholars in such actions. Usually the masters we had was 
ready on Christmas morning with their treat, and we spent the 
day eatin apples and ginger cakes, playin games and havin a 
jolly good time. 

Everything had been goin on right well with our school for 
several years. Then come the fall the trustees had trouble findin 
a schoolmaster. None showed up in our neighborhood, so they 
got Mr. Brown to teach. He and his family was among the 
Marylanders I mentioned before who had moved in over to the 
east of us. He was also one of the leaders in buildin the new 
schoolhouse and had taught school back in Maryland. Mr. 
Brown made a good master, we all liked him, and everything 
went along all right until Christmas. Us scholars hadn't said 
anything to him about a treat. He was such a good man we 
never doubted but wiiat he would be on time with his apples 
and ginger cake. The day before Christmas we talked of 
presentin him with an article to sign to make sure what he was 



goin to do, but changed our minds and decided to come to the 
schoolhouse by daybreak and prepare to turn him out if things 
didn't go our way. 

We didn't know that Mr. Brown knew nothin of the 
Hoosier custom. We was all in the schoolhouse bright and 
early next mornin, door barred, waitin for him. One of his 
boys must have got wind of what we was goin to do, for he 
showed up instead of Mr. Brown and said his pap sent him 
down to see if what he'd heard was true. We told him it was 
and to go back and tell his pap he was locked out until he 
brought a treat. When the boy reported back, Mr. Brown flew 
into a rage. Mrs. Brown come runnin down to Uncle Ben's and 
said her husband was carryin on somethin awful, swearin like 
a sailor, somethin he didn't do, and shakin his fists and sayin 
no mob could keep him out of his schoolhouse. She said he 
was loadin his horse pistols also, and would Uncle Ben go up 
and talk to him. Well, Uncle Ben went back with her and ex- 
plained to Mr. Brown the way things was done out here and that 
all he had to do was take a little treat down and give the 
youngsters a vacation and all would be well. He also hinted 
that horse pistols was the wrong tools to use in our parts. 

Mr. Brown didn't show up on Christmas day, but the next 
day he was on hand, pleasant as you please, with apples and 
ginger cake and a jug or two of spruce beer, which was a drink 
made by these German settlers from the east. We had a fine 
day of it after all. Mr. Brown held no grudge and seemed to 
enjoy himself as much as any of us. 

The closest we ever come to a real fight was when we turned 
Mr. Linch out. He was a big, raw-boned, sandy-haired Irish- 
man, middle-aged and a bachelor. He had a terrible bad 
temper. When he got mad he would lay on the gad unmerci- 
fully. A few days before Christmas we noticed Mr. Linch 
goin round and fixin the winders so they could be fastened on 
the inside. We knew then that he was gettin ready to shut us 
out if we demanded a treat. We never said a word until the 


day before Christmas, then knowin we had a tough customer to 
deal with, we drew up an article cover in everything we expected 
the next day and asked him to sign it. He flatly refused and 
give us to understand that he intended doin nothin. We didn't 
argue the matter, but us big boys and girls made plans to get to 
the schoolhouse before daybreak and take possession ahead 
of Mr. Linch. 

Christmas mornin we was all there on time. We built a 
fire in the fireplace, then we barricaded the door by pilin all the 
benches up against it. We didn't have to wait long before we 
saw him comin down the road with his ax on his shoulder and 
a bunch of kindlin under his arm. He soon saw someone had 
saved him the trouble of buildin a fire. Mr. Linch stuttered 
some when he got mad. When he found he couldn't get in 
and heard us inside, he said : 

"Wha- wha- what does this me- mean?" 

We told him to come around to the winder and we would 
tell him. This he did, and we handed him a revised article 
which called for two bushels of apples and two dozen ginger 
cakes. We also added to the article that he would not punish 
any scholar for his part in turnin him out. He give us a dirty 
look and tore the article to pieces. 

"Y- Y- You can go to hell!" 

Then he walked around to the door and started on it with 
his ax and never stopped until he had beat it into kindlin. He 
never knew that some of us big boys was standin each side of 
the door armed with a club apiece if he come in usin that ax. 
When he saw our barricade and that it was useless to break 
through it, he threw down his ax and started down the road, 
never sayin a word. 

Pap knew all about our plans and about the middle of the 
forenoon he come down to the schoolhouse to see how the land 
lay. When he saw the splintered door and heard our story, he 
got plenty mad. 

''Any man who acts like that needs a good lickin." 


Pap sent all the small scholars home, but told us bigger ones 
to stay until the next day. He said he would bring our supper 
and breakfast to us, and for us to stay and whip the old rascal 
out. We spent Christmas night at the schoolhouse and until 
noon the next day, but no Mr. Linch showed up, so we all 
went home. 

In a day or two we got word that Mr. Linch went from the 
schoolhouse to a cabin about two miles north where they sold 
whisky. There he stayed a day or so, drinkin and carousin and 
wound up with a fight. To make matters worse for me, Mr. 
Linch was boardin at our house at this time. About a week 
after Christmas he showed up. Pap went to the door and asked 
him what he wanted. He looked a sight, haggard and holler 
eyed, and his clothes showed burns where he had been knocked 
into a fireplace, we supposed. He said he wanted his carpet- 
bag and to cross the crick. 

The crick was froze over so we couldn't use the canoe and 
the ice wasn't thick enough to bear a man's weight. Pap give 
him his carpetbag and told me to get the gray mare and take 
him across at the ford, where it wasn't froze over. I was purty 
shaky when I rode up and told Mr. Linch to mount behind me. 
When we crossed the crick I knew he would like to drown me 
for the part I took in turnin him out, but he never opened his 
head, nor did L When we got across, he slid off the mare, 
started down the road and didn't even look back. That was 
the last any of us ever saw Mr. Linch. That was also the end 
of school for that term. 

Boys and girls could go to school just as long as they wanted 
to, or as long as they paid for their term. Some would be 
grown and of age. I think a lot of us kept goin to school more 
for a pastime and to get away from the monotony of home life 
than we did for book learnin. I was one of them grownups in 
the last school I attended. Our schoolmaster was a young man 
named Gill. He was the most likeable master we ever had, 
pleasant, agreeable and right smart. He didn't do much lickin 


either. Us big scholars thought of him more as a chum than 
a master. He got so chummy that one of the big girls be- 
come "his gal." 

Along toward Christmas we begun to wonder what kind of 
a treat Mr. Gill had in store for us, never once thinkin he would 
fail us. But to our surprise, the day before Christmas come 
around and not a word about a treat from Mr. Gill. I always 
thought he intended to treat us, for he didn't act like other 
masters had when they took a solid stand against it. I think 
he wanted to hold out on us just for the sport of it; might be 
he just wanted to match wits with us and show us how game 
he was. 

Christmas mornin we was all on hand bright and early. 
Doors and winders was barred. Then we waited for Mr. Gill 
to come. About the usual time here he come walkin out of the 
woods into the clearin in front of the schoolhouse. There he 
stood a while, takin in the situation. I don't think he was fooled 
much, for he smiled and turned around and started to leave. 
We was ready for that move by havin one of our best runners 
standin by the door ready to catch him if he tried to get away. 
When we caught him, he fought and kicked so bad and give 
us such a tussle that we had to tie him up and carry him back to 
the schoolhouse. We presented our article, but he flatly re- 
fused to sign it. Some mischievous youngster spoke up. 

''Why not take him down to the crick and stuff him under 
the ice?" 

Well, before anybody could say no we was on our way with 
him tied up as he was. We cut a hole in the ice and threw a 
couple of rails across it. Then we took his coat off and tied a 
rope to his feet so we could pull him back before he would 
drown and laid him on the rails. Before we jerked the rails 
out from under him we agin asked him if he was ready to 
sign the article. He said he would drown before he would sign. 
All of a sudden a voice come from the crick bank. 

"Boys, don't do that. That is too exposin." 


It was the trustees, who had been watchin us all mornin to 
see that we didn't go too far in our part of the game. I know 
I was mighty glad to hear that voice and I think the others was, 
too. The master almost had us whipped out that time. As for 
Mr. Gill, I could never figure out how far he would have gone 
with his part of the game. Sometimes I wonder if he didn't see 
them trustees before we did and was puttin his trust in them. 

We took Mr. Gill off the rails, put his coat back on him 
and carried him back to the schoolhouse and set him up against 
a tree while we went inside to consult on our next move. We 
decided to let the big girls snow ball him a while. That didn't 
work either, for his gal got to cryin and carryin on so the other 
girls just quit for feelin sorry for her. 

Mr. Gill now demanded that we turn him loose, although he 
refused to sign our article. I reckon we was just about as 
determined a bunch of youngsters as you could get together. 
We was raised by people who was that kind ahead of us. So 
we refused to let him go. 

While we was discussin what to do next, we looked up the 
road and there come a big drove of hogs on their way to a 
Ohio River town market. A good many of these hogs was 
half wild. They had been brought in from the woods, half 
fattened and full of fight, especially the boars with their long 
tusks. All at once the thought struck us : why not lay the 
master out in the road and let the hogs pass over him ! 

When we laid him in the road we give him another cliance 
to come to our terms. Still he refused, although we noticed he 
got mighty pale. We backed off and watched as the hogs went 
by. The first bunch would smell and root him some and go 
on. Then they wasn't so particular about walkin around him. 
Finally one of them rough lookin, long-tusked, half -wild boars 
come up purty close and started pawin the ground, snif fin and 
chompin his jaws like he was goin to jump right on him. That 
was more than Mr. Gill could stand. He called to us to come 
and get him, that he would give us our treat. 


It was now noon. School went right on after noon as if 
nothing unusual had happened. The next day Mr. Gill give us 
one of the finest treats we ever had. We sure earned it. 


THE little log mills spotted around the county was mighty 
essential to the settlers. They ground our corn into meal, 
and I don't reckon we could a got by without corn bread. 

All the mills in our part of the county was run by water 
power. There was two kinds of water wheels. In the overshot 
wheel the water come down a wooden trough to the top of the 
wheel and poured into wooden buckets built into the wheel. 
The weight of the water turned the wheel and then the buckets 
emptied. For the undershot wheel the water come through a 
trough to the bottom of the wheel and struck paddles, pushin 
the wheel around. 

The mills used stone burrs and ground mighty slow. It 
took about an hour to grind a bushel or two of corn, and at that 
it wasn't much more than finely cracked. There was no money 
charge for grindin; the miller tolled your grist by takin out 
one-eighth of the corn for his pay. Sometimes the miller was 
several days behind with his grindin, and the rule was first 
come, first served. If a family was out of meal and stood in 
purty well with the miller, he might take pity on you and slip 
your grist in ahead of the others. Or you could leave your grist 
and take another home with you. 

Every mill had a big fireplace. In cold weather you was 
welcome to set by the fire as long as you pleased. Sometimes 
that would be all day, while you was waitin for your turn. If 
you got hungry you could go to the hopper and take out a double 
handful of corn, no matter whose corn it was (that being the 
custom of the day), put it on the hearth, cover it with ashes 
and live coals, and you soon had parched corn to nibble on while 
you was waitin. 

In right hard freezin weather a water mill would have to 



Stop on account of the ice. If the cold spell held on too long, 
you was likely to run out of meal. Then you had to borrow 
from the neighbors; that is, if they had any to spare. If you 
got clear out, you just eat potatoes instead of corn bread. That 
would happen now and then. You might wonder why a family 
didn't keep a bigger supply of meal on hand. One reason was 
two bushels of corn was about all you could get through the 
trails on a horse's back. Then again the meal would get mouldy 
in a few weeks. On account of these drawbacks a trip to a 
mill had to be made about every ten days, or two weeks at the 
outside, to keep a family supplied. 

As soon as a boy was able to ride a horse well, and that was 
purty young, he was put on top of a two-bushel bag of shelled 
corn slung across the back of a horse, and would go with his 
father or big brother to the mill. After he had learned the 
trails and how to manage his horse and the bag of corn, he had 
the job of goin to mill regular and alone. I well remember 
how I felt when Pap would say : 

''Well, son, you will have to go to mill today." 
I'd have what I called mill pains, I dreaded it so. I was 
always worried for fear the big homemade linen bag, with the 
corn held in either end, might catch on a limb or snag and rip 
open, or the horse would stumble and throw me and the bag 
off. I wasn't big enough to hoppus the bag up on my shoulder 
and throw it across the horse's back. Then there was the brush 
swipin you in the face, and the shyin and snortin of the horse 
at every wild thing that moved. There was also a chance of 
comin across a Indun roamin through the woods. Although 
they was friendly, I dreaded meetin one. Goin to the Hoover 
Mill the trail passed by a big swamp called the Round Pond.^ 
In the winter your horse would likely break through the ice 
along the edge and let your bag of corn slip off. That wasn't 

^ The Hoover Mill was on Crooked Creek, a short distance above its 
junction with White River. The Round Pond that was passed on the way 
filled the low ground south of the Crown Hill cemetery underpass beneath 
Thirty-eighth Street. 


the biggest worry there. Panther had been seen comin out of 
the swamp. When I passed it I almost had a chill. Pap didn't 
know anything about how I felt. It wasn't any use to complain 
to him anyhow, for when he said go to the mill, you went ! 

One mornin Pap started me off for the Whitinger Mill." I 
got along all right until I come to a place in the trail where a 
big tree had blowed over. The roots had pulled out a little and 
left a mud hole. I started around them on the firm ground. 
My horse slipped, made a flounce toward them tree roots and 
jammed one of them through the bag of corn. I lost some of 
the corn before the thought struck me to jam my old wool hat 
into the hole. I rode the rest of the way to the mill bareheaded. 
I had lost just about as much corn as the toll would be. I told 
Mr. Whitinger about my mishap and how I worried about 
what I would catch when I got home for bein so careless. 

**Now don't you worry," he said. ''Go up to my house and 
have Mrs. Whitinger give you a needle and thread, and I'll 
mend your sack while your corn is grindin, and your father 
will never know anything about it." 

When I left the mill, he hadn't taken any toll for the grindin, 
so I felt mighty happy. I never did forget how good he was 
in fixin me up that way, and Pap never knew anything about 
the affair either. 

Soon after I got to goin to the Mill alone, I was takin a 
grist to the Hoover Mill, which was almost due west from our 
cabin on the west side of White River. Where I forded the 
river the water was about as deep as a horse could get through. 
There was a island or a big sandbar about the middle of the 
stream, then on the far side the water was shallow. I was ridin 
a long-legged black horse we called Black Jack. He was a 
tricky old rascal, always shyin and humpin at any little thing 
he didn't take a notion to. 

I got my grist and was fordin the river on my way home 
when old Jack struck that nice-lookin island of soft sand and 

' The Whitinger Mill was located north of Broad Ripple on White River. 



took a notion to roll in it. In spite of all my jerks and yells he 
threw me and the bag of meal off and took his roll. I managed 
to hold on to the reins so he wouldn't get away from me when 
he got up. But I was in some predicament, a bag of meal on 
the ground in the middle of the river and me not big enough to 
get it back on the horse. 

Across the river and not far away lived a old shoemaker. 
But how was I goin to get up on Jack's back to cross the deep 
water? I tried hookin my toes over his knees and grabbin a 
handful of his mane to pull myself up, but he was too tall and 
his long legs too slick. All of a sudden I thought of standin 
the bag of meal on end and mountin the horse from it. This 
I did and soon had the old shoemaker back to the island. He 
put the bag on old Jack, climbed on himself, pulled me up 
behind, and we come across the deep water. Then I had to pass 
the Round Pond, where I expected to be eat up by a panther, 
but 1 reached home safe and sound. Pap thought that was 
good trainin for a boy. 

I was a good big strap of a boy when Pap started me and 
my younger brother off right early one mornin to get some 
grindin done. My brother's horse was loaded with the usual 
two bushels of corn, but on my horse I had three bushels of 
wheat in two bags. We had started to raise some wheat and 
buckwheat by this time. As the country was gettin more 
settled and there was more grindin to be done, Pap knew that 
the mills would be purty well crowded. He said for us to go 
to the Patterson Mill first.® 

"If they can't do your grindin, go to the Hoover Mill. But 
don't come home without meal." 

It just seemed bad luck was with us that forenoon. I was 
ridin along thinkin about how we would come out at the Patter- 
son Mill when all of a sudden my horse stumbled and fell, 
throwin me and the two bags of wheat off and runnin a snag 
into his chest. After we got him up and found he didn't bleed 

* The Patterson Mill was on Fall Creek near its mouth. 


or limp much, we reloaded the wheat bags and decided to go 
on. At the Patterson Mill we found we couldn't get our grist 
for about two weeks. Then we went to the Hoover Mill and 
was told it would be three weeks. My horse was gettin a little 
lame by this time, so we thought we'd better go back home, 
where we arrived about noon. 

Pap was kind of put out and after dinner he loaded my bags 
of wheat on a fresh horse. 

'*Go over to the Spring Mill.^ If anybody'll do your grindin 
Seth Bacon will." 

We had a new trail to travel, but after windin around 
dodgin logs and trees for about two miles, we finally reached 
the new mill. Bacon was at the door when we rode up. Our 
feathers sure dropped when he said : "I can't do your grindin, 
boys. I've got grists layin in my mill so long the corn is 

Which of course was exaggerated. Then he looked us over 
a bit. "Who's boys are you ?" 

We told him John Johnson's boys. 

He kind of grinned. ''Git off, boys, and bring your grists 
in. Old John must have meal." 

He ground my wheat first so I could be boltin it while he 
ground my brother's corn. Most of the mills at this time had 
put in small hand-turned bolters so they could handle wheat and 
buckwheat flour, although they ground all grain on the same 
stone burr. The bolters was nothing more than a wooden frame 
cylinder covered with cloth. On the end of the axle was four 
wooden pins to turn it by. After the wheat was ground, the 
miller gave you the bag and you climbed a short ladder and 
poured the grist into a hopper above the bolter. Then you 
turned the bolter by hand while the grindin run in. The flour 
sifted out through the cloth into a trough underneath. 

''Now son," Mr. Bacon said, "the grist before yours was 

*The Spring Mill was located near the top of Crow's Nest Hill on the 
west side of the road that bears its name. The large spring that turned the 
overshot wheel flowed out near the top of the ravine that dents the hill. 


buckwheat. The man was in a hurry and didn't half bolt it. If 
you turn long and fast you can get what he left." 

That I did and got a big bag of mixed flour and a bag of 
bran and middlins. We finally got our grists and started home, 
two happy boys. It had taken us a whole day to get three 
bushels of wheat and two of corn ground. The flour was 
purty dark lookin, but mother said it would make bread anyhow. 

Mother once told me that about the second year after we 
come up on Fall Crick (1824) Pap had been so busy buildin a 
cabin and clearin a patch of ground, he didn't get out much 
corn that spring. The summer turned out to be awful dry, and 
what with the wild land, the squirrels and the birds, he didn't 
get much corn. The few neighbors was in the same fix. Pap 
heard that the Conner brothers, who lived about eighteen miles 
north of us, had plenty of corn to sell. They had slipped in early 
and bought some rich bottom land from the Induns layin along 
W'hite River; they also put up a right good-sized grist mill. 

What to buy the corn with was Pap's next worry, for he 
didn't have enough money to buy even one bushel. Then the 
thought struck him he could sell his weddin coat. Them days, 
if a man had a good store coat he was considered well dressed, 
even though his britches was nothin more than coarse homespun 
linen. He went down into Indianapolis and finally run across a 
young feller who was goin to be married and made a deal, gettin 
fifteen dollars for the coat. Then he borrowed a canoe from 
one of the McCormick's down at the village, loaded in some 
provisions, and started up the river, polin and bushwhackin his 
way along. 

He always thought Conner kinda socked it to him on ac- 
count of the short crop down our way. He had to pay a dollar 
a bushel, shuck the corn himself, and carry it on his shoulder 
about a mile to his canoe. He spent the whole fifteen dollars 
for fifteen bushels. It was a much easier trip floatin down the 
river, and he tied up about two miles northwest of our cabin. 
Then he walked home through the woods, got a horse and made 
three or four trips bringin the corn home. 


Owin to the few mills in our section of the country, Pap 
took that same corn back to Conner's Mill to get it ground into 
meal. Considerin the long trip and the time waitin for a grist, 
Pap would sometimes be gone three or four days, and mighty 
anxious days and nights they was for mother. He usually 
loaded two bags of shelled corn, four bushels, on the horse's 
back and walked himself, leadin the horse. He carried a bag of 
grub over one shoulder, and his rifle over the other. When 
mother thought it was about time for Pap to be comin home, 
she would go out in the clearin in the evenin and start a big 
bonfire. The light made reflections in the sky that could be 
seen for miles of a dark night. This was to guide Pap home 
in the darkness if he would happen to get lost. 



HAXGiN over the fireplace, or the door, was purty sure to 
be a flintlock rifle. It wasn't needed to shoot Induns 
when I first remember anything, but it was mighty essential to 
furnishin the family with meat. Most every man was handy 
with a rifle, and some women wasn't so bad either. When a 
boy was big enough to carry a rifle and knew how to load it, he 
was allowed to hunt with it. He had to bring in game and kill 
squirrels by shootin them in the head, or he was told to leave the 
rifle alone. Old timers didn't believe in wastin powder and lead. 

Besides the rifle, the equipment of a hunter was a shot 
pouch and powder horn. The pouch, about six or eight inches 
square, made from deer hide with the hair left on, was carried 
on the right side by a strap runnin over the left shoulder. In 
this pouch you carried your bullets and patchin. The powder 
horn was fastened to the same strap and hung over the shot 
pouch. Hunters took lots of pride in their powder horn. It 
was made from a cow or ox horn, scraped and polished until 
it was so thin and clear you could see the powder through it. 
The small end was fitted with a wood plug, the big end with a 
block of wood. Up above the powder horn and fastened to the 
shoulder strap in front was a small scabbard riveted together 
with lead rivets so as not to dull the edge of the small butcher 
knife carried in it. Hangin by a short leather thong was the 
powder charger. It was a measurin cup, made from different 
things ; Pap's was the tip of a deer horn. 

This completed the outfit unless you wanted to include the 
huntin shirt which most men wore. Some liked buckskin all 
trimmed up with fringe, but mother made ours out of heavy 
linen. They had a belt and a skirt that come down all around 
below the hips. Then a short cape was stitched to the neck and 



fell over the shoulders to keep out the rain. We would knit 
fringe out of linen thread and trim the skirt and cape, and run 
a strip up each sleeve. 

Most every hunter had a name for his gun. Long Barrel 
was the name Pap had give his rifle. The first thing I learned 
was the proper procedure in loadin. The rifle was set on the 
ground with the barrel held by the left hand, the charger 
grasped between the forefinger and thumb of the same hand. 
With the right hand, pick up the powder horn and pull the plug 
with your teeth. Pour the powder in the charger and replace 
the plug. Drop the powder horn and pour the charge of powder 
down the barrel. Then get the tallered linen patchin out of the 
shot pouch, put it over the end of the barrel, and push a bullet 
down on it with your thumb as far as it will go. Draw your 
butcher knife and cut off the patchin across the end of the 
barrel. Then push the bullet down against the powder with the 
ramrod. With the old flintlock rifle there was no cap to bother 
with. Enough powder would dribble out in the pan to flash 
when the flint made a spark. If the flint was in bad shape, or 
the powder in the pan got damp, she wouldn't go off. 

Occasionally I got into trouble with mother when she found 
my shirt tail full of holes, after I had run out of patches and 
used it as a substitute. 

The first time I used a rifle by myself was when I was 
about twelve or thirteen years old. One day a neighbor come 
over to get Pap to go turkey huntin. His boy, who was about 
my size, come along to stay with me. I brought Pap his rifle, 
but before he started off huntin both men set their guns up 
against the cabin and put off to the stable to see a new calf. 
They no sooner got out of sight when the neighbor boy said : 

''Let's take their rifles and go out in the dead'nin and shoot 

I didn't know what Pap might say when I got back, but the 
temptation was too much for me, so away we went to try our 
luck. The first thing we saw to shoot at was a woodpecker 


peckin manfully on the side of a dead tree. I suppose like most 
boys my chum wanted to saddle the blame on me, for he said : 

'There's a good mark. Go ahead and shoot him." 

Down I went on my knees, restin old Long Barrel on a 
stump. I pulled the hammer back, took quick aim and pulled 
the trigger. The woodpecker clinched his claws in the bark of 
the tree, give a quiver or two and died hangin there. We 
knocked him down with clubs and then concluded we'd better 
be getting the rifles back against the cabin. While I was a little 
uneasy, yet I was right proud when I showed Pap the dead 
woodpecker, shot through the head. 

All Pap said was : ''Did you aim at the head?" 

"No," I said. "I aimed at the body." 

"You did right well. But if you aimed at the body, you 
should a hit the body." 

After that Pap let me take his rifle out when T pleased. 

The woods was so full of squirrels that you could get a 
mess in no time and without goin fur from home. They made 
right good eatin. We had only one kind then : the gray squir- 
rel. Once in a while I'd see a black one. Fox squirrels was 
unknown for years. I was grown up before I even saw one. 
When I shot it, it lodged in the fork of a tree. I was so anxious 
to see what it looked like that I cut the tree down to get it. 

Squirrels was so plentiful that we saved only the choice 
parts : the hams and the back. We always shot a squirrel in the 
head so the bullet wouldn't spoil those parts. In the fall we 
nearly always had a spell of travelin squirrels. We supposed 
that the mast and nuts that they fed on was scarce in some 
sections and caused them to move on to other places where they 
could find somethin to eat. 

One fall there was so many passin through they become a 
pest, makin raids on the corn fields. They come by the 
thousands for several days. They was so starved and footsore 
from travelin that they wasn't fit to eat. Pap said somethin 
had to be done, so he put Uncle Milt and me to patrollin the 
corn field with our rifles. At night we would mould enough 


bullets to keep us shootin all the next day. The squirrels was so 
hungry they didn't scare very much, but the crack of the rifles 
helped to keep them up in the trees. 

One day I counted eighteen dead squirrels I shot from a 
tree without changin position or missin a shot. We left so 
many dead ones on the ground that they actually attracted the 
buzzards. We saved most of our corn that fall, but some 
neighbors who didn't patrol their fields had their corn eat up 
so bad it didn't pay to gather it. 

Wild Turkeys 

There was lots of wild turkeys in the woods when I was a 
boy. They come in mighty handy as a change from venison or 
other game. Wild turkeys wasn't quite as big as our tame 
bronze ones, although a big gobbler would dress out sixteen or 
eighteen pounds. They was almost black in color. 

A favorite way of huntin turkeys was with a caller. We 
made it from the flat bone of the second joint of a turkey wing. 
It took experience to make ''turkey talk" on one of these callers. 
If you made the wrong sound, the turkeys knew the diff'rence 
right away and was gone in short order. When you found 
fresh signs of turkeys in the woods, you got behind a big log 
and hid yourself. Then by a peculiar suckin sound made on 
the caller with your mouth, you give three ''keouks," imitatin 
a turkey. 

If there was an old gobbler in hearin distance, you'd get 
three "keouks" for a answer. You call again. After gettin 
a answer or two, the gobbler would run, with head low, for a 
short distance, thinkin he was goin to join up with another 
flock. All his flock would come trailin after him. They would 
stop, straighten up their heads and wait for another call. Then 
they would answer and run toward you again. When they was 
almost near enough for a shot, you lay low and put your mouth 
close to the ground and give the last call. That made it sound 
farther away. Then you raise your head and shoulders above 
the log, take quick aim and fire. 



One mornin I spied a flock slowly pickin along in our 
deadenin, headed toward the woods. I didn't know much about 
huntin turkeys then. But I saw they was headed toward the 
crick, so I started to circle them and head them off before they 
reached the bank and flew across. But they was too fast for 
me. Just as I was about to give up I heard the leaves rustle off 
to one side. There I saw^ a big gobbler vvaddlin along with his 
wings draggin and his mouth open. He was so full of feed and 
so fat he was about give out from runnin, let alone flyin. 

I raised my rifle quick as I could, holdin it up by plantin 
niy elbow on my hip, and blazed away. Down went my turkey. 
1 was so excited I threw the gun down and went after him. I 
stripped some bark from a leatherwood bush with my knife, 
tied his feet together and swung him over my shoulder, a 
mighty proud boy. Then I thought of my rifle. A mighty 
careless thing I'd done when I threw it down and jammed sand 
in the barrel. What would Pap say! I took my turkey and the 
rifle back to the house and hung the rifle up in the usual place. 
After Pap left, mother helped me get the sand out without him 
ever knowin a thing about it. 

I was hunting down along our new ground one time when 
I saw a flock of turkeys feedin out in our corn field. We had 
shucked the corn, and they was pickin around on the ground for 
ears we had missed. I slipped up to a fence corner right easy, 
rested the barrel of the rifle on a fence rail, and just as I drew 
a bead on a turkey another one walked right in line behind. The 
bullet killed the front turkey and went through the back of the 
other one. He flew straight up about as high as a tree top, then 
let all holts go and come down "ker plunck" on the ground, dead 
as a door nail. I had somethin to tell Pap that not many hunters 
could boast of. I had killed two turkeys with one shot. 

Flintlocks was mighty good in their day, but they had a 
habit of bein tricky at times. You had to keep the flint well 
trimmed and set or it wouldn't knock a spark in the powder 
pan. Then you had to keep the powder in the pan dry. If you 
was shootin at a squirrel in the top of a tree and held the rifle 


too Straight up, some powder from the pan was likely to slide 
off and hit you square in the eye just as you drew a bead. A 
flintlock had a way of makin a flash of fire, a sizz and a splut- 
ter, when the flint struck the steel and knocked a spark in the 
pan right in front of your eyes, makin you bat em when the 
gun went off. 

I asked Pap if we couldn't have one of the new locks put on 
Long Barrel, where a hammer hit a percussion cap on a tube 
and done away with the flint. He said to remind him of it the 
next time he went to town. I did, and the new lock was a 
great improvement. 


The best and sweetest meat of all game, and one we never 
got tired of, was what wq called pheasants, but I guess the right 
name was grouse. They looked a lot like quail, only they was 
about three times bigger. They made their nests in the leaves 
under a bush or a pile of brush, the same as wild turkeys did, 
only a hen pheasant would lay twenty or twenty-five eggs. 
Some birds, when you disturb their nests, will fly away and 
make a noise and big fuss. Others will fly around and pitch at 
you like they wanted to knock your head off. But a pheasant 
beats them all. As quick as they are disturbed, the little ones 
will dart under the leaves and hide. The mother will start 
away, rollin, floppin, jumpin and turnin over and over like she 
was crazy or had her head cut off. She wants to attract your 
attention away from the little ones. 

The male bird had a peculiar way of gettin up on a log, 
jerkin his wings and increasin the motion until it made a sound 
like distant thunder and could be heard a good piece away. 
Sometimes, when you heard a ''drummer," you could knock 
him over with a club by runnin around him in a big circle, 
drawin in closer and closer, all the time whistlin or hollerin. 
The bird just flattens out on the log and draws his head low. 
He either thinks he is hid, or your runnin and hollerin has 


charmed him ; I never knew which. W^hen you got close enough 
you could knock him over with your club. 

If you was a good enough shot to hit one in the head, it 
would drop to the ground and flop and kick worse than any 
chicken you ever saw. The others seemed spellbound watchin 
the one on the ground. You could shoot the whole bunch as 
long as you could keep one kickin on the ground. They would 
pay no attention to the crack of the rifle. But if you shot one 
through the body on the first shot and he didn't kick and flop, 
your shootin was done, for they left right then. 


Deer wasn't hunted so much for sport them days as to 
furnish fresh meat for the family. Around our settlement the 
deer was nearly all killed off or scared away when I got big 
enough to handle a rifle right well. When I was a small chap I 
used to like to run back in the woods a piece from our cabin and 
watch the deer when they come around to lick salt where Pap 
had cut holes in the top of a log and put salt for the cows. Some- 
times there w^ould be as high as fifteen or twenty in a drove. 

In the earlier days when Pap was busy in the clearin or with 
the crops, he had a favorite place where he could go in the 
evenin and most always bring home fresh venison. Near this 
place Pap made a Indun ladder by fallin a small tree with lots of 
limbs on it against a big tree, then cuttin the limbs down to a 
foot in length for steps. In the big tree at the top of his ladder 
he could set and watch for deer.^^ 


Hardly a fall passed when I was a youngster without hearin 
of a bear or two bein killed. They wasn't so plentiful as deer 
and they roamed through the woods by themselves mostly. 

One of the most excitin times of my young days was a bear 

"* The "Indun ladder" was in the present loop of street car tracks at the 
State Fairgrounds. An old cabin on this site had burned, and a barrel of 
salt in the ruins attracted deer as a salt lick. 


chase that started from our corn field. It was in the early fall 
just after roastin-ear time. Pap was laid up with a bad case of 
the agur. Mother come in one evenin and said she heard a 
breakin and a snappin of corn stalks, like somethin was down 
in the field. 

Pap didn't say much about it, just kind of turned it off. In 
a night or two mother heard the corn stalks a crackin again and 
called us children out to listen. We could hear it plain. We 
run in and told Pap about it agin. He said it might be our 
old cow had broke into the field, or it could be a bear. Pap 
felt too bad to go down to the field next mornin, so he sent 
us children down. 

Well, we reported back the fence wasn't down, so the cow 
couldn't get in. Pap wanted to know then if the corn was broke 
down in little patches. We said it was, and that somethin had 
gone around and took a bite out of a punkin here and there. 

''That was a bear done that," Pap said. ''Them patches of 
corn broken down was where the bear set down and reached out 
to pull the stalks to him." 

As soon as he felt better Pap said he would get Uncle Tom 
to come up, and they would give that bear a chase. In a few 
days he sent me after Uncle Tom, who brought his rifle. Old 
Crowbar, and his hound dog Cump, short for Tecumseh. They 
took old Cump down in the corn field and put him on the trail 
of the bear. The old hound knew his business. He snorted 
and sniffed and circled around and finally started off almost 
straight west, head to the ground, lettin out a short bay now 
and then. The men follered. 

After an hour or so old Cump, who had got some distance 
ahead, give out a long deep bay. That meant he had caught up 
with the bear and routed him out of his den. Soon after the 
hunters heard old Cump bayin like he meant business off to the 
south, headed toward the crick. All mornin mother and us 
children had been listenin to old Cump's bays until they died out 
toward the west. Toward noon she walked to the door again. 


"Listen, children, I believe I hear old Cump agin, and he's 
headed this way!" 

The bear had turned east at the crick. Pap and Uncle Tom 
had cut back as fast as they could, but he had too much start on 
them. We all lined up with mother on the post and rail fence 
in front of the cabin and waited. Directly mother yelled : 
''There he comes!" Well, I think our eyes bugged out till you 
could a snared em with a grapevine, we was so excited. 

That old bear was lopin along throwin his front feet to 
one side and then to the other, lookin like he was gettin purty 
tired. There come old Cump right behind, tongue out and 
bayin his best. Mother raised up on the fence, cupped her 
hands to her mouth and give the old hound a long encouragin 
''Whoop — ee — ee !" 

He surely understood her, for he charged right in and 
seized the bear by the ham. Down went bear and dog in a 
heap. When they come up the bear was reachin out and strikin 
at old Cump with all his might, but the hound was back out of 
reach. Mother let out another whoop, and old Cump charged 
right in again and jumped back out of danger as before. Both 
bear and dog then disappeared in the woods, and old Cump's 
bays got fainter and fainter in the distance. 

Mother said it wouldn't be long until Cump made the bear 
take to a tree. Pap and Uncle Tom come trailin along, both 
out a breath. Cump chased the bear about a mile north of our 
cabin and sure enough put him up a tree. Accordin to huntin 
rules them days, Uncle Tom got first shot at the bear because 
he was first to come on the game. When Pap come up, he said : 

"John, Fm goin to shoot him in the stickin place. You 
watch and notice if he nods his head when I fire." 

The nod would be a sure sign that he got his death shot. 
Uncle Tom fired, and sure enough the bear nodded his head. 
He made a few kicks, tumbled out of the fork in the big oak 
tree, and fell end over end to the ground. He was so fat he 
busted open on the side when he hit. Uncle Tom stayed with 


the bear while Pap come home after the oxen and a cart to 
haul him in. 

Pap let me go back with him. After cuttin and slashin 
through the brush he got the cart backed around so they could 
roll the bear on. Pap told me to break a switch off and keep 
cuttin the oxen over the head with it and keep yellin "Whoa" 
so they wouldn't get a sniff of the bear or see it. If they had, 
they'd a gone through the woods in no time. Oxen couldn't 
stand the looks or smell of a bear, dead or alive. 

Well, we skinned and dressed the bear, and the whole 
neighborhood had bear meat for a change. ^^ 

Coon Hunting 

I don't think I ever knew anyone who liked to hunt coons 
better than Uncle Milt did. He was Pap's youngest brother. 
He worked for Pap and never wanted any land of his own. 
When he got married. Pap built a cabin up on the north end of 
our place for Aunt Polly and him, and there they lived until 
Pap died. 

Uncle Milt was diff'rent in many ways from other men in 
the settlement. He never seemed to worry about anything. He 
liked to boast a little, especially about his hound dogs, and when 
in a crowd he liked to be noticed. But everybody liked him, and 
men would listen to him jist to hear his funny remarks and 
sayins. When he went to town to sell his hides, he would dress 
up in his buckskin huntin shirt and leggins, all trimmed with 
fringe, put on his moccasins and coonskin cap with the tail 
hangin down in back, throw his shot pouch and powder horn 
over his shoulder with the huntin knife showin plain. Then 
he would get on his old mare, lay his rifle across the saddle in 
front of him, load the hides on behind, and parade around 
town the good part of the day before sellin em. 

" The bear's trail was picked up near the present Teepee Restaurant and 
led westerly in line with Thirty-eighth Street to Boulevard Place, where 
Cump routed the bear and chased it southeast toward the present Marott 
Hotel. At Fall Creek it turned upstream along the Boulevard back to the 
Fairgrounds and on north about a mile. 


On one of his trips to town he noticed a covered wagon in 
front of a store with a man standin along side. What caught 
Uncle Milt's eye was the hound dog layin underneath the 
wagon. He took a fancy to the dog right away and asked the 
traveler if he would sell or trade him. 

"No, sir," answered the traveler. "He haint for sale. 
Mister, there jist haint no better hound than that dog, Rock." 

If he had said the dog was no good, Uncle Milt might have 
gone on. But he hung around, kept on parleyin and braggin 
about his own hounds, determined to make a deal. Finally 
the traveler said : 

"Tell you what I'll do, stranger. If you can git that dog 
out from under the wagon, he's yours." 

That was a challenge and good enough for Uncle Milt. He 
took off his coat, unbuttoned one of his galluses, and crawled 
under the wagon. Well, such a snappin and yelpin and kickin 
up of dust, you never saw. Sometimes Uncle Milt would be on 
top, then it would be the hound. Finally Uncle Milt got 
astraddle the dog and tied his gallus around his neck. Then he 
come out draggin the hound after him. Uncle Milt was bit up 
purty bad and bleedin some, his shirt was tore quite off, and 
he was covered w^ith dirt. But he had his hound and he had 
showed the bystanders the kind of grit he was made of. He 
walked away leadin his dog, not sayin a word or even lookin 
at the traveler. Rock turned out to be one of the best hounds 
Uncle Milt ever owned. 

In the fall season when the fur was good and the weather 
suited him, Uncle Milt was likely to show up at our cabin most 
any evenin with his hounds and get me to go coon huntin with 
him. I liked to go about as much as he did. Besides, money 
was mighty scarce and we got fifty cents to a dollar for a hide. 

If it w^as a fit night it wouldn't be long till we'd hear the 
long gentle bay which told us the hounds had picked up a trail. 
Then we would hurry along listenin for the quick yelps that 
meant they had treed the coon. If the moon was shinin at all, 
we would move around the tree where the dogs was until we 


got between the coon and the moon, and his eyes would shine 
out. Then a good shot would bring him down. On dark 
nights we made torches before startin out by splittin strips out 
of dry straight-grained clapboards and tyin the strips into 
bundles as big as your arm. We would light one end in the 
fireplace and let it blaze then blow it out. A torch of that kind 
would burn slow for hours. If we wanted a light, we'd just 
swing the torch through the air a few times and it would pop 
out into a blaze. 

If we couldn't see the coon in the firelight, we chopped 
down the tree. It was worth all the work just to see the dogs 
fight that coon when the tree fell. Some of our best catches 
would run as high as six or eight coons in a night. 

We filled our pockets with parched corn before startin out. 
Then if we got lost — which we did many a time — we didn't 
worry about it nor did the folks at home. We would make a 
bed in some dry leaves alongside a big log, build a fire out in 
front and sleep until daylight. About the only thing that would 
bother us would be the flyin squirrels, squeakin and flyin 
around. We knew no panther would venture near our fire. 
When daylight come, we could get our bearins by the sun or 
the moss on trees and start for home. 


We never done much fishin with a line. If we wanted a 
mess of fish we used a spear or gig. One of us would paddle 
a canoe, and the other would stand in the bow with the gig. 
Most of the fish we got was red horse, black suckers, salmon, 
and once in a while a pike. 

There was no law against usin a seine, so one winter Pap 
knit one out of strong linen thread that was sixty yards long. 
This was after some roads was made. Pap and us boys and 
some of our neighbors took a couple of wagons with empty 
barrels and some salt, our grub and this seine, and we drove up 
White River about twenty miles. We started seinin down the 
river. When evenin come we would camp, clean and salt down 


the fish we had caught. We fished for three days that way. 
When we got home each family had a good supply of fish 
for winter use. 

Pap always kept a good canoe. It was not only used for 
fishin but also for crossin Fall Crick. Anybody who wanted 
to cross was at liberty to use our canoe. Many times we 
would get a call from the other side of the crick to bring the 
canoe over. We never thought that any trouble, nor did we 
ever take any pay. 

Pap made our canoes out of half of a big poplar log, or half 
log split lengthwise. He would shape up the outside with his 
ax and a adz, just by the eye, until it suited him. Then he bored 
a row of half -inch holes along the bottom, two rows on each 
side, and another row near the top edge. Out of dry walnut he 
cut a lot of half-inch pins, some two and a half inches long, 
some shorter. They was driven in tight and flush with the out- 
side. Then as he chopped out the inside wood he'd come to the 
ends of the pin and know he'd cut far enough. The sides and 
bottom were two to two and a half inches thick when got 
through. The outside of the canoe was then gone over with 
a plane and smoothed up. That made a job that would take 
the eye of any Indun. 


AccoRDiN to their agreement, the Induns all moved out of 
these parts the year before we moved in. For a few 
years after, a band would come through, just travelin or movin, 
nobody knew which. They crossed the crick below our cabin 
and used our canoe, loafin around most of the day. The 
squaws would come up to the cabin and want to trade with 
mother. She could get a pair of moccasins just by fillin them 
with shelled corn. The bucks liked to trade horses. 

They give us a scare once over a horse trade with a settler 
who lived up the crick from us. One mornin bright and early 
a man rode up to our cabin and told Pap to get his rifle and 
ride up to this settler's cabin as quick as he could, as some 
Induns up there acted like they was goin to make trouble. When 
Pap got up there he found six or eight other men already there. 

This settler had traded horses a few days back with some 
Induns. They had just brought the horse back, declarin that 
the man had cheated them and they wanted a settlement. No 
doubt if the truth was known they was in the right. But this 
settler told them to get out, that a trade was a trade. They 
parleyed around a while and then went down below the cabin 
and camped for the night on the bank of the crick. Next 
mornin they got out in plain view of the cabin and put on a 
war dance, swingin their tommyhawks, whoopin and circlin 
around. After their dance they all squatted down in a circle. 
That's the way they was when Pap come up. The men decided 
to walk out in plain view with their rifles on their arms and 
see if a show of fight wouldn't drive the Induns away. The 
settlers didn't want any trouble if they could avoid it. Well, 
the Induns didn't stay long after they saw these armed men, but 
broke camp and put out through the woods. Pap come home 
wearin his scalp, and we was mighty relieved. 



T never could make out just where the old timers got all that 
fightin spirit, whether it come up with them from the South, 
from their Scotch and Irish mixture, or from livin in a wild 
part of the country. The gentleman class of the early days got 
satisfaction by usin swords and pistols, but the common class 
that settled the land in these parts had more sense and used 
their fists. Fights was right common when I was young. Fists 
would start flyin over triflin matters. Any kind of fightin 
went: kickin, bitin or scratchin, but woe unto the man who 
tried to use a knife or anything but his bare hands. A fight 
was allowed to go on until one or the other cried *'Nuf f ." Then 
each man's friends helped him brush the dirt off and get his 
coat on, and the affair was settled. Sometimes the two men 
would shake hands. If there was a bar near, the winner usually 
treated the crowd to a round of drinks. 

One time I was watchin a fight when the big feller knocked 
the smaller man down, jumped on him and was pummelin him 
for all that was in it. Suddenly the big feller throwed his 
head up and hollered. 

"Nuff! Nuff! Take him off!" 

When their friends parted them, they found that the man 
who was down had the big chap's thumb in his mouth and was 
grindin on it like a dog with a bone. I remember another fight 
when the man underneath pulled the top man down and bit off 
a big chunk of his ear. 

Pap wouldn't pick a fight, but he just couldn't stand around 
and see a imposition of any kind. Maybe his Scotch-Irish 
temper had somethin to do with it. One of his fights took 
place down at Indianapolis, where he went to vote. All the 
county voted at the same place then. The Whigs had clustered 
up around the votin winder and kind a took over matters and 
wouldn't let the Democrats in. When a Whig come up they 
would pass him over their shoulders to the winder so he 
could vote. 

I reckon Pap's politics sort a worked down in his fists, for 
he watched what they was doin for a while. When they passed 


up a genteel dressed Whig in his long coat tail in front of Pap, 
he just grabbed it and yanked back, splittin it clear to the neck. 
The man landed on the ground on his back. Somebody in the 
crowd took it up and told Pap to step out and he would give 
him a lickin. Well, the men formed a ring and the fight was 
on. Pap licked his man without much trouble. Then he hunted 
up a justice of the peace and asked him how much his fine 
would be. 

''Reckon Til have to fine you five dollars for breakin the 
peace,'' the squire said. 

When Pap reached in his pocket to pay, five of his friends 
stepped up and put up a dollar a piece. 

The hardest fight Pap ever had was at a auction sale. I 
reckon I was about eight or nine years old. We hadn't been 
there long when one of Pap's friends told him there was a bully 
at the sale who come from up northeast several miles. A bully 
was a big feller who wanted to fight anybody for the least 
cause, just to show off. 

Several times he sauntered around close to Pap, talkin big 
and loud, but Pap never paid any attention to him. As he 
passed by an old man who was walkin with a cane, he almost 
knocked the old feller down. 

"Why don't you watch where you're goin?" said the old 

"Why don't you get out of the way if you don't want to get 
run over," said the bully. 

Pap heard the whole thing. Turning to the bully he said : 

"If you want to run over somebody, why don't you pick out 
a man your own age and not an old crippled feller." 

That was what the bully wanted, so he said : "You want to 
take it up, do you?" 

Pap come right back with, "Yes, if that's the way you 
want it." 

I got mighty scared and weak when Pap left me. Both 
men took off their coats, a ring was formed and they was at 
it before you could say Jack. They walked up toe to toe and 


Stood there bangin away right and left. I saw Pap drop to his 
knees and I thought he was done for, but he got up and waded 
in harder than before. Then the bully went down, and Pap 
dropped on him, feedin in the licks with both fists. It wasn't 
long until the bully said ''Nuff." 

Pap let him up, and both men went to get their coats. The 
bully just couldn't take it, for he all of a sudden broke away 
from his friends and made a lunge for Pap. He would have 
knocked him head over heels if Pap's friends hadn't pushed 
him out of the way. The bully kept on goin, but Pap was after 
liim like a whirlwind. He was sure mad now. Both men went 
at it again, until Pap knocked him down. Then he jumped 
astraddle of him and started tuckin in them licks on his ribs. 
The bully didn't holler "Nuf f." When the crowd thought he'd 
had enough, they pulled Pap off. Then they found out why he 
didn't holler. He was clean out and couldn't. 

Well, Pap was purty much out of wind but not skinned up 
much. As for the bully, he had to be carried to a wagon and 
hauled home. Pap was right uneasy for several days after for 
fear the feller might die, but he didn't. ^^ 

Shooting a Mark 

Shootin matches was mostly for beef and turkeys, although 
I have seen hogs put up for prizes. Anybody who had a fat 
two- or three-year-old steer or heifer to spare could put on a 
match. Notice would be spread around of the date, and the 
best shots in the neighborhood, and a lot who wasn't so good, 
would show up. If it was a cold day, a big log heap would 
be burnin to warm by. 

Before the match the men would be shown the beef and a 
price set on it. The value on foot was around fifteen or eighteen 
dollars. A shot cost ten cents. The shooters then bought shots 
until the man was paid for his beef. 

'' The place where the fight occurred was between Illinois Street and 
White River, about three or four hundred yards south of the Crow's Nest 


The first center shot got choice of a hind quarter. The 
second center shot drew the other hind quarter. Third and 
fourth centers, the fore quarters. Fifth center drew the hide 
and taller. Once I saw a marksman make the five best shots 
and drive off the beef alive! 

Each shooter made his own target. He burned a clapboard 
on one side until it was well charred and then cut a big cross 
in it. The intersection of the lines was the center. Because 
you couldn't see the cross at a distance, a white paper mark was 
pinned over the cross, the tack right in the center of the cross. 
Some papers was round, some square, but the best one was a 
square piece with a notch cut out like the letter V upside down, 
the point of the notch comin up to the center tack. This notch 
helped a lot when you brought the sights of your rifle up into 
the fork toward the center. 

Two distances was marked off: forty yards for offhand 
shootin, and sixty yards for a dead rest. Judges was generally 
chosen from old men or those who didn't care to shoot. There 
was no system about turns. Each shot when he felt like it. He 
just called for his target, and the judge set it up against a tree. 
After all the shootin was done, the judges laid out the boards 
in a row and called off the closest shots. 

They was always some men that didn't shoot but just come 
to be adoin, who would dress the beef and have it ready. They 
got the first two ribs on each side for their work. Other times 
the beef wasn't killed until the match was over, then all hands 

Zach Collins and Noah Flood lived neighbors to each other. 
They was both good shots and they had a little show they liked 
to put on after a match that kind of finished up the day. They 
would take turns holdin a clapboard target between their knees, 
while the other man stood off forty yards and offhand shot 
at the center mark. When the rifle cracked, the clapboard 
would go flyin like it was hit with a hammer. They didn't 
show any more concern than when they was shootin for turkeys. 
Their little act always drew a big cheer from the men. 


At a turkey match no target was used. The shootin was 
done at the turkeys' heads. The bird's feet was tied together 
and it was placed behind a green log that was just big enough 
for the head to show above. Shootin was done at the same 
distance as for beef. The price on turkeys was generally 
seventy- five cents for hens and a dollar for gobblers. Two 
judges took charge, placin the turkeys one at a time back of 
the log. The shooters took turns, firin one shot apiece until 
the bunch of ten or twelve was killed. About the time you 
pulled the trigger, the turkey was likely to move his head and 
you missed, which brought a laugh from the crowd. 

Shootin matches finally fizzled out, mainly because some- 
body would bring a jug of whisky to sell by the drink. Whisky 
and gunpowder made a bad mix. 


LONG about the middle 1830's, when the country around the 
new capital town had got fairly settled up, some of the 
leadin citizens wanted to do somethin to encourage farmers to 
take a bigger interest in crops and livestock. So *'Uncle Jimmy" 
Blake, the Fletchers, and a few others^^ organized a county fair 
and put up prizes for several different things connected with 
farms and farmin. 

Pap took quite an interest, thought the fairs was a good 
thing and made several entries. At the first county fair the 
board offered cash prizes for the ten best fat hogs. While most 
of the hogs of the early days was more of the razor back or 
elm-peeler type, two new breeds called the Shaker and the Slifer 
had been brought in by eastern settlers. Pap liked em purty 
well and had been raisin em for the last few years. Several 
weeks before this fair, he put a bunch of em up in a rail pen 
and shoved the corn to em until they was good and fat. They 
was all white and weighed about three hundred pounds apiece. 

I had the job of drivin ten of them hogs the five miles to 
the courthouse square. I started the day before they was to be 
judged, so I could go slow and not get em hot or drive any of 
the weight off. The first day I only made Uncle Tom's place, 
where I put em up. The second day I made the square only 
to find the fair board had no pens ready. I had to herd them 
until they made some. 

"James Blake, known to many as "Uncle Jimmy," was active also in 
movements for the first railroad, the colonization of freed slaves, a state 
hospital for the insane, and temperance. Calvin Fletcher (1798-1866) was 
a lawyer from Vermont who settled in Indianapolis in 1821. His brother 
Stoughton A. Fletcher (1808-1882) came to Indianapolis in 1831 and later 
opened a private bank. All three men were interested in farming and helped 
form the Marion County Agricultural Society in 1835. Its first project was 
to sponsor a county fair. The first fair was held October 30 and 31, 1835. 



Well, Pap had no trouble winnin both first and second 
prizes. He got his money and was mighty well pleased with 
the fair, the board and ever'body.^* 

It was at the second fair, I think, that a prize of ten dollars 
in gold was offered in a plowin match. Each man enterin was 
to lay off his land forty rods long, plow two rounds for a 
starter, then the next two rounds for the prize. Time, neat- 
ness, and a even furrow was considered. That ten-dollar gold 
piece, which was a lot of money in them days, looked mighty 
good to Pap. He thought he had a right good chance to win, as 
he had a new Peacock, a cast moldboard breakin plow he had 
brought back from a trip to Cincinnati. This was the first iron 
moldboard breakin plow in our neighborhood. 

The mornin of the match I helped Pap hitch up Dick and 
Xell to the wagon, throw in the Peacock plow% and away we 
went. The fair was held on the courthouse grounds agin, but 
the plowin contest was on the statehouse ground and "the 
commons" adjoinin. 

Well, when we pulled up and unloaded the Peacock plow, 
you should a heard the remarks. All but one, and there was 
some six or seven entered, said, ''That settles it. There aint no 
use tryin to beat old John." They all had wooden moldboard 
plows, so they withdrew from the contest. The only ones who 
stayed in was Pap's brother-in-law, Israel Harding, and one 

"Come on, John," Israel said, "and prepare to do your best 

Pap and Uncle Israel laid off their lands and plowed their 
two rounds. The three judges gave their instructions and took 
their places, one at each end and one at the middle of the land. 
Pap was first to start. He made his first round in good time. 
When he come to the second, he got a little excited and began 
to holler at old Nell, his line horse, and no better ever lived. 

" The Indianapolis Indiana Journal of November 6, 1835, lists John 
Johnson as winning $12 and $4 as first and second prizes for hogs, and a 
hat worth $5 for the best gelding. 


Faster and faster they went until the judges could hardly keep 
up. Pap's coat tail was f lyin in the air. Everybody was hollerin 
and cheerin like it was a horse race. Pap finished without 
havin to stop once and clean his plow, even splittin a brick he 
went so fast. Uncle Israel didn't even have a show with his 
old wooden plow. 

The prize turned out to be a cast plow that was on exhibit 
by a new firm called the Underwood Company and made right 
here in Indianapolis. Pap never knew why he didn't get the 
gold piece, unless they run out. He didn't like the turn of 
affairs very well, so he offered the plow to anyone who'd take 
it. A bystander said he would and might trade it off for 
a coon hound. ^^ 

At this same second fair the board offered a prize of 
twenty-five dollars in gold for the best cultivated farm in the 
county. This was somethin new in the way of contests. Pap 
decided to enter our farm. We made great preparation. The 
corn was laid by and we had gone over the fields with hoes and 
cut out all the green sprouts and vines, trimmed around the 
stumps, and mowed all the fence corners. Not a rail was down 
from the worm fences. We even pulled all the loose bark off 
the rails, so it wouldn't look stringy hangin down. We done 
everything we could to make the farm look neat and shipshape. 
Pap was just that way about anything he done, being a mighty 
determined man. 

Me and Uncle Milt was plowin for wheat when here come 
five men on horses ridin up the lane toward us. We knew right 
away they must be the judges. They stopped and spoke and 
remarked what a good job of plowin we was doin. We was 
takin extra pains for their benefit. Then Uncle Milt took over 
in his big way of tellin things and told them all about what we 
had been doin to dress the place up. 

As it was about noon we turned out and took the judges 

"The Indiana Journal of October 15, 1836, lists John Johnson, Israel 
Harding, and a Mr. Tngold as having competed in the plowing contest for 
a prize of $9.00. 


up to the house. There we found Pap paintin a new front yard 
gate he had made. I noticed Pap was mighty friendly to them 
judges. He told them to get off their horses and come on in 
for dinner, as it would soon be ready. He ordered Uncle Milt 
and me to take their horses down to the crick, water them, put 
them in the stable and give them a good feed. 

After dinner the judges looked the place over, got on their 
horses and left. In their final decision Pap w^as awarded the 
prize. I often wondered if mother's dinner had anything to do 
with it. The same thing happened agin as in the plowin con- 
test : no gold to pay the prize with. Instead, Pap got a Bible, a 
brass kettle, and a shawl for mother. That huffed Pap quite a 
little : said he wouldn't try for any more prizes and he never did. 


As the years went by we kept cuttin down trees and clearin 
more ground. That meant more fields and more corn. 
There wasn't any market for corn then because there wasn't any 
way to ship it out. Here at home it brought ten cents a bushel ; 
that is, if you could find anybody to buy it. Down on the Ohio 
River at the bigger towns, like Cincinnati, Lawrenceburg, and 
Madison, was slaughterhouses that packed pork durin the 
winter months and sent it down the river by boat to New 
Orleans. Settlers wasn't long in findin out that feedin hogs 
and drivin them to these river markets was a good way to 
sell their corn. 

Most of the hogs raised then was rough-lookin, long-legged, 
long-snouted breed. They had to be that way to walk to the 
Ohio River. A close-made fat hog wouldn't last one day on 
such a drive. 

Everybody's hogs run loose and growed up in the woods in 
sort of a half -wild state. Nobody bothered about a shed. They 
wasn't even fenced in until sellin time. The only care they had 
was a little corn throwed out of a evenin to keep them in the 
habit of comin up. Through the day they rooted around 
through the woods eatin roots and herbs and anything they 
could find. In the fall we drove them out in a beech thicket, 
with a pond or swamp nearby where they could get water, put 
out some salt and left them to feed on the beechnuts for a few 
weeks. It was surprisin how them nuts would start them to 
swellin out. Then they was brought in and put in a rail pen 
and fed all the corn they could eat for a while. 

Occasionally a sow would drift off in the woods, have a 
litter of pigs and wouldn't come up, or we couldn't find her. 
Her pigs growed up like wild hogs and lived back in the woods. 



I remember Pap comin in one time from a hiintin trip and tellin 
how he had to take to a big log when a big half-wild boar 
chased him. He said he finally had to shoot him before he 
could get down off that log. 

After we got the main herd in, w^e used to go back in the 
woods and build a big rail pen. On one side we would make a 
slip gap by pullin out one end of a rail. Then we put shelled 
corn in the pen and dribbled out a few long streaks through the 
woods. Them half -wild hogs would f oiler the traces of corn 
up to the pen. After a few baits we would rush up and trap em. 
After they was fed a while in the pen, we could toll and drive 
em in and put em with the main herd. 

There wasn't many roads leadin out of Indianapolis. For 
the Ohio River towns you had your choice of the ^ladison 
Road or the Brookville Road. About all you could say was 
that they was roads in name only; jist a lane cut through the 
woods, with trees and stumps purty well cleared out of the 
right-of-way, but mighty little gradin done. Swampy places 
had been corduroyed by rollin logs in side by side until the bog 
was spanned. Mighty Httle dirt was put on the logs. A wagon 
would go thump, thump, thump over them, shakin the daylights 
out of you. They was only wide enough for one way travel. 
Durin the winter months these roads got so muddy from wagon 
\\heels, stagecoaches, and hog drivin that they was almost 
impassable. Yet the winter was the only time we could drive 
hogs to market, as that was the only time the packin houses was 
runnin. Even then we could drive only when the ground was 
soft; hard froze ground cut the hogs' feet. 

Several farmers would club together on a drive. Each 
owner had his hogs earmarked and counted in when the drive 
started. A drove would be some two or three hundred hogs, 
sometimes more. Big droves would handle better than small 
ones ; they would stay together and not scatter. A drive was 
always in charge of a boss who rode a horse. Pap got that job 
most every time. There was six or eight drivers, dependin on 


the size of the herd, who went afoot. Then there was a wagon 
with four horses and a driver to pick up the hogs that give out. 

Dotted along the roads to the river towns was taverns to 
take care of the pubHc. Most of them was built of logs, though 
toward the river some was brick. Hangin from rings on a arm 
stickin out from the buildin was a sign that said : 'Tublic 
Entertainment by" — then the name of the man who run the 
tavern. Some taverns was for the stage lines, while others 
was equipped with yards or open pens for the hog drivers. 
The drivers was dressed so rough and got so smeared with 
mud that they wasn't fit to put up at finer places with people 
that traveled by stagecoach. 

Mostly the drivers was young men, sons of the owners of 
the hogs. They could stand the hard work and the exposure 
lots better than older men. The boss was generally one of 
the owners. Us drivers was considered purty good chaps at 
home, but like most boys when they get away apiece, got to 
feelin their oats and done things we didn't do at home. One 
thing sure, we hung together and didn't aim to let anybody 
put anything over on us. Now and then we run across a tavern- 
keeper who wasn't the best feller in the world. Some was 
lookin out for their own interest and not much for the comfort 
of their patrons. When we hit that kind of a place, we nearly 
always left with the accounts squared. 

The first day out on a drive we would make right good 
time. After that it was mighty slow work. The hogs wouldn't 
move so fast when they begun to get tired. It took from 
fifteen to twenty days to drive them to Cincinnati, dependin 
on the travelin qualities of the hogs and the condition of the 
roads. Now and then a hog would give out and just lay down 
in the mud. Then the wagon drove up, and three or four of 
us wasted no time a pickin him up, mud and all, and shovin 
him in till he got rested up. If the wagon was full, the driver 
went on to our stoppin place, unloaded and come back for more 
give-out hogs. 

Along towards evenin the tavernkeeper ahead would most 


likely come ridin up to find out from the boss how many men 
to expect, how many hogs, and how much corn to put out for 
the night feed. We never took any corn with us, as that would 
take another wagon, which didn't pay. We figured it was less 
expensive to buy it even at the customary high price of fifty 
cents a bushel at all taverns. 

On arrivin at the tavern we drove the hogs in the lot, un- 
loaded the give-out ones, put our horses up and fed them, 
then went to the house and cleaned up as best we could. We 
was a sight after a day's drive, covered with mud from head 
to foot. If it was rainin we was soaked. The tavernkeeper 
would set out a tub of water and we would take turns standin 
in it in our boots while others scrubbed the mud off with a 
broom. We would likely be wet anyhow, so more water didn't 
damage us much. 

After a slug or two of whisky apiece at the bar, we had a 
supper of hot biscuits with honey or maple syrup and a slab 
of ham. Then we would set around a blazin big fire in the 
kitchen fireplace, review the day's work or spin yarns while 
we dried off. The work was hard and exposin, and we would 
be dog tired at night, but somehow we liked it and it never 
seemed to hurt us either. Knowin the next day would be 
another hard grind, we was off to bed rather early. The 
boss, who didn't get so muddy and wet, usually got a bed. The 
drivers slept in beds if they was enough to go around. If 
they wasn't, and the tavernkeepers managed purty well to be 
short when mud-spattered hog drivers arrived, we slept on the 
kitchen floor. We would pull off our boots, spread our com- 
forter or blanket on the floor, roll up some carpet for a piHer 
and sleep with our feet to the fire. 

After a early breakfast the boss paid the tavern bill, which 
was fifty cents a head for the men. The teamster hitched up 
his horses, we turned out our hogs and was on our way agin. 

When we reached the slaughterhouse, a bargain was struck 
for t4ie hogs which was anywhere from a dollar and fifty cents 
to two-fifty a hundred pounds, dependin on the quality. Every 


hog was weighed alive by catchin it by the ears and swingin 
it up with a *'girty" or surcingle to a big steelyard. All hogs 
was checked as to marks of owners and accounts of weights 
kept. The boss collected for the hogs and had charge of the 
money until he reached home and settled with the owners. 

After a day spent in takin in the town and buyin goods to 
take to home folks, or to a Indianapolis store on order, the 
wagon was loaded and we was off on the return trip. The 
drivers walked all the way home, too, which took about five 
days. We couldn't afford stage fare nor could we ride in the 
wagon, for the horses had enough load to pull back through the 
mud without our extra weight. The boss would give us a lift on 
the home trip by ridin ahead and tyin his horse to a saplin and 
walkin on. When we come up to the horse a tired driver would 
ride on a piece, tie the horse agin and walk on. Then another 
of us would get a chance to ride. We kept this change about 
goin all day until we pulled into a tavern for the night. 

Transporting Wheat 

When we got to raisin more wheat than we needed for 
home use, we had to wagon it to the Ohio River to market it. 
We hauled our wheat to Lawrenceburg ; it was the best market 
and nearest to us. Thirty-seven and a half cents a bushel was 
the standard price for several years. These wagon trips was 
made in the fall when the roads was dry. We never aimed to 
bring back any money. \Vhat we got for a load of wheat was 
spent on supplies needed at home. What we bought at 
Indianapolis was brought up here by wagon, so we saved by 
doin our own haulin. We'd buy a bolt of factory for men's 
shirts, a bolt of calico for women's dresses, perhaps a hundred 
pounds of sugar, a half sack of coffee, some tea, and always a 
barrel or two of salt, sometimes a Peacock breakin plow for 
a neighbor, this bein about the only piece of farm machinery 
we had to buy. 

This haulin to the river and buyin dress goods slowed up 


the old spinnin wheel except for spinnin yarn to knit socks and 
mittens. To make the trip pay still more, we brought back 
goods for Indianapolis stores on order — groceries, hardware 
and dry goods, and sometimes drugs. 

Our wagon was the schooner-shaped, covered-top kind. The 
front and back bows flared out makin a sort of hood on each 
end. A feed box was carried on the back end. It was hooked 
on the front end when the horses was fed, the tongue of the 
wagon actin as a stall between the horses. Hangin on the 
couplin pole was a tar bucket to grease the wooden axles and 
wheels every mornin. Twenty-five bushel of wheat was con- 
sidered load enough to pull over dirt roads and up some of 
the hills we had to contend with. Five or six wagons would 
make up together ; in that way we could help each other in 
case a wagon got stuck or broke down. 

The grub box, loaded on the front end of the wagon, was 
filled at home with several loaves of bread, perhaps a biled 
ham, a sack of doughnuts, salt, sugar, coffee, and a few cookin 
utensils. We camped and got our own meals on the trip. 
Folded on the top of the grub box was a comforter or two to 
sleep in. We put timothy hay in the bottom of the wagon for 
the horses on the return trip ; it also made a cushion for the bags 
of wheat against the continual shakin and joltin. On top of the 
bags we put hay for the horses on the way down. We also took 
along a few bags of oats for horse feed, droppin off some of 
them at taverns to feed on the way back. We made it a point 
to camp near a tavern or a crick where water was handy. 

You got mighty tired of shakin along all day in a wagon, but 
sittin around that campfire, talkin and jokin and spinnin yarns 
made you forget all about it, and it seemed like grub never 
tasted better. At night we crawled up in our wagons, rolled 
up in the comforters, stretched out on the hay and slept like a 
log. In the mornin we was up bright and early, fed the horses, 
scraped together some breakfast, tarred the wagon wheels, 
hooked up the horses, and was on our way agin. It took about 


ten days to make the round trip with wagons. Us young fellers 
looked forward to a wagon trip to the river for a grand time of 
bein on our own and livin outdoors like a bunch of gypsies. 


SETTLERS had a way of makin the most and the best out of 
what they had at hand. It was surprisin what they could 
do in the way of hatchin up somethin entertainin. Weddins 
was the occasion for such a series of several days' general get 
together, with a rousin good time for all. 

If the young man had a piece of land nearby, first thing 
was to build a cabin for him. Men would gather and in a few 
days have a new home all ready for the new couple. The only 
weddin invitations sent out was by the bride's father spreadin 
the word around that there was goin to be a marriage at his 
house on a certain evenin. That was all that was necessary. 
Women folks would gather on that day and begin the prepara- 
tions for a big supper, after the marryin was over, of roast veni- 
son, wild turkey, sometimes roast pig, and everything at hand. 

Throughout the day and the evenin the whisky bottle, 
sugar bowl, and water pitcher set on the table for anyone 
to help himself whenever he wanted a drink. After supper 
the room was cleared, the fiddlers took their places and the 
dancin started. It was likely to continue to well toward mornin, 
when everybody went home for a little rest and breakfast. 
Then they got ready for the infare at the groom's house, which 
was another big dinner and supper. The dancin started agin. 
Along about midnight most folks would start stringin out for 
home, while some would stay around all night makin life 
miserable for the new married couple. Next day they was 
back for another big feed and more dancin. 

For a wind-up of the celebration, when the bride and groom 
left for their new home, the young chaps had what they called 
a ''race for the bottle." The bride would put a bottle of whisky 
on the bar post, or gate post, in front of the new cabin. The 



young men would line up on their horses at the bride's home 
and race for it. If the distance was long and over crooked 
trails full of stumps and brush, you can imagine what a rough 
and tumble race it was. 

In the year 1839, just before I was eighteen. Uncle Ben 
sold his farm across the crick from us to a New Yorker by 
the name of Powell Rowland and left for Illinois. The 
Rowlands had five children, two girls and three boys. Families 
that come from anywhere in the East was called Yankees by 
us older settlers, who come mostly from the South. They was 
mighty good people, only their ways and their talk was so 
diff'rent. Some thought the Easterners was kind a stuck up 
on account of havin more book learnin than we did. 

A week or two after this Rowland family moved in I 
sauntered off down to the crick on a bright Sunday afternoon. 
It could be that them newcomers had somethin to do with it. 
I was almost to the crick bank when my ears caught the sound 
of voices and the splashin of canoe paddles in the water. I 
hunkered down right quick behind a bunch of bushes so nobody 
could see me, quietly parted the bushes and took a look. There 
was our canoe with two boys and a gal settin in it. They sure 
was havin a fine time, gabbin like a bunch of black birds. 
What just about knocked my eyes out and took my breath was 
the gal. Right there and then I decided she was the purtiest 
pink-cheeked chunk of a gal I had ever laid eyes on. 

After they passed me I quietly slid back out of sight and 
headed for home with a heart beatin a new tune. I didn't tell 
anyone where I had been. How was I goin to break in on 
the Rowland family and get acquainted ? 

Not many days after, Pap come out of the house wearin 
his best coat and said he was goin over to pay his respects to 
the newcomers. When he got back I made it my business to 
hang around and hear his report. Pap's opinion of matters 
carried a lot of weight in our family. He said they was a 
mighty fine and friendly people, that Mr. Rowland was a 
college man but not a bit stuck up. Pap had maneuvered around 


until he found that Mr. Hovvland's politics was the same as 
his. That made a clincher to a finish with Pap. 

I still couldn't figger out how I was goin to break into the 
Rowland family, but the fire was started and couldn't be put 
out. One day I was helpin Pap do some repair work. He 
wanted a tool we didn't have, so he asked me to run over to 
Mr. Rowland's and see if I could borrow one. I was off 
before you could say scat. That day I met Mr. Rowland and 
two of the boys, but not a squint at their sister. I did manage 
to invite the boys to come over, and they asked me to come 
back. I was particular to promise to return the tool as soon 
as we was through with it. 

Well, us boys got purty friendly in a short time. On one 
of my visits I was invited into the house, where I met Mrs. 
Rowland and the daughters. The eldest, Miss Pamelia, was 
the gal I had seen in the canoe. That winter we all attended 
the same school and got right well acquainted. Later on I 
started makin Sunday evenin calls on Miss Pamelia. Sparkin 
them days had its difficulties. I was allowed to call every 
other Sunday evenin only, and I had to leave on the stroke of 
nine. You couldn't waste any time on the job then. 

I was still courtin her in 1842 when Pap come home from 
town one afternoon and handed me a couple of tickets to a 
banquet to be held at the Palmer Rouse. Re said it was for 
ex- President Martin Van Buren who would be comin through, 
and for me to go and take my lady if I wanted to.^® I rode 
over to the Rowland home early on the evenin of the affair, 
helped Miss Pamelia get her horse ready, and down the road 
we went headed for a high time. 

We felt right important settin there in the presence of an 
ex-President and the quality of Indianapolis listenin to flowery 

" President Martin Van Buren was defeated for re-election by William 
Henry Harrison in 1840. He toured the West in 1842 and visited Indianapolis 
on June 11 and 12. On the following day, as he resumed his journey toward 
Terre Haute, his carriage was upset on the muddy National Road near 
Plainfield. The Palmer House stood on the southeast corner of Illinois 
and Washington streets. 


Speeches. Toward the end of the banquet I noticed the waiters 
was passin plates, and the gents was droppin their dollars in 
to pay for their meal. I almost froze in my chair. I was 
green enough to think the banquet was free. I didn't have 
a dollar with me, nor any other place for that matter. There 
was only one thing to do : break away from the table and make 
a clean breast of the matter to Mr. Parker and tell him I would 
be down the next day and settle. He was mighty nice to me, 
said he knew my Pap, and to tell him to send down twenty 
bushels of corn and that would settle the bill. When I broke 
the news to Pap the next mornin, he was furious. Said he 
thought it was an imposition to present a person somethin 
and then charge him for the privilege. But I delivered the 
corn next day, as I had promised. 

When I plucked up courage enough to ask Mr. Howland 
for his daughter's hand, I also told him my predicament. I 
didn't have a dollar to my name ; all I had was good health and 
a strong pair of hands. He surely had a lot of confidence in 
me, for he said not to let that disturb my mind, that he wanted 
me to take charge of his farm, as he was busy enough with his 
orchards and other matters. He said we could live right in the 
home with them, and I could farm his place on shares. 

Poor Pap! He got mighty upset when he heard I was 
goin to leave him after I was married. He didn't say anything, 
but he acted purty glum. Me bein the oldest boy, I had been 
takin the farm over the last few years, which relieved Pap 
more than I realized. I had helped with the work without a 
cent of wages, which I expected, knowin Pap had all the 
expense he could take care of with our big family. 

In the fall of 1843 we was married. The Howlands put 
on a nice weddin for us, eastern style. There w^as no licker 
or races for the bottle at our affair. I managed to buy a new 
coat that cost twelve dollars ; my britches and boots and the 
rest of my gear was in purty good shape. I was so conscious 
of my backwoods ways I wasn't sure I could go through with 



the ceremony. Many of the guests was people from town, 
friends of the Rowlands and strangers to me. 

The Reverend Henry Ward Beecher, a young preacher from 
Indianapolis, tied the knot.'^ I well remember the advice he 
give us that evenin as he w^as leavin. To my new wife he said: 

'Tf you ever catch your husband comin in the house actin 
glum and out a fix, start singing the gayest tune you know 
and don't say a word to him." 

To me he said : "If you come in from work and find her 
with her sunbonnet pulled as far forward as she can get it, 
whistle a soft tune and don't open your head to her." 

Parson Beecher was a lot diff'rent from most of the 
preachers at that time. He believed in mixin happiness and 
a good time with religion. He made a lot of friends with his 
style of preachin, especially with the young folks. 

A few days after our weddin I ventured home to see mother 
and find out how the land lay with Pap. Mother as always 
was glad to see me. She said Pap seemed to be right bad 
upset, but she thought he would get over it in time. With 
all his quick Scotch temper and his harsh ways, Pap had a 
mighty big tender heart. It wasn't long till he was his old 
self, tradin work across the crick with me and doin all he 
could to be a real father and father-in-law. 

I farmed Father Rowland's place three years. When we 
left, we moved to an eighty of our own.^® There we started 
raisin a family and livin a life. 

" The Rev. Henry Ward Beecher, later to gain such fame in New 
^'ork, had come to the Second Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis from 
Lawrenceburg in 1839. 

"Oliver Johnson soon moved to 160 acres originally taken up by Daniel 
McDonald. It was bound by modern Central Avenue and the Monon Rail- 
road, between Forty-second and F"orty-sixth streets. There he had built a 
frame house by Xew England artisans. It was considered for many years 
the finest farmhouse in Marion County. The farm ultimately was sub- 
divided into city lots, the area being named Johnson's Woods. In 1920 the 
farmhouse was purchased, turned around to face Park Avenue, remodeled, 
and given the number 4456. 


IF Oliver Johnson ( 1821-1907) is to be considered the author 
of this narrative, he is so by the grace of his grandson, 
Howard Johnson, the writer. 

As indicated in his Introduction, Howard Johnson was 
born in Indianapolis in 1873. He grew up and attended grade 
school at the corner of Central Avenue and Forty-sixth Street, 
and high school at North Indianapolis. Married in 1894 to 
Minnie C. Fessler, he moved into his grandfather's house and 
took over management of the farm. Thirteen years later he 
moved on to his own farm at Seventy-ninth Street, between 
Hoover and Ditch roads. There his father died in 1940 at 
the age of ninety, and a year later his wife passed away. 

Although Mr. Johnson has given up active farm work, he 
is by no means idle. He keeps a garden, reads, fishes, and 
does wood working. In 1947 he built a cabin cruiser. A few 
years ago he felled trees and built himself a log cabin, with a 
stone fireplace, for picnic use and recreation. His daughter 
and family live with him, and he has a cocker spaniel ^^id a 
pet crow. ''While I have lived with nature all my life, I never 
grow tired of it," he says. 'T love the trees, the birds, and all 
wild things. I still like to slip away from the house with my 
little dog, Brownie, walk down through the fields where she 
may chase a rabbit or two, then on to the woods where T can 
prowl around the cabin with all nature and lose myself." 

Mr. Johnson and his story were brought to the attention 
of the Indiana Historical Society by Albert Fessler, nephew 
of Mr. Johnson and his frequent companion. The secretary, 
editor, and librarian have been guests at the cabin and are satis- 
fied with the accuracy and authenticity of Mr. Johnson's 
stories from his grandfather. The Publications Committee felt 
that the membership would enjoy sharing them in this form. 




Ague, 171-72. 

Agriculture and farming, see Corn, 

Fairs, Food, Hogs, Plowing, 

\\ heat. 

Bear, 164, 201-2. 

Bear hunt. The, 202-4. 

Beecher, Henry Ward, 229. 

Blake, James, 214. 

Bones, setting of broken, 173. 

Brown, , schoolmaster, 181-82. 

Canoes, 207. 

Chickens, 164. 

Christmas, and custom of "turning 
out the schoolmaster," 181 ff. 

Cincinnati, 218, 220. 

Clothing, 167-70, 222, 223. 

Coffee, 166. 

Collins, Zach, 212. 

Conner Mill, 193-94. 

Contests and games, 157; fights, 
208-11; "pulling the man down," 
156-57; shooting matches, 211-13. 

Cooking and baking, 162-63, 165-66. 

Corn, grinding of, 188; price of, 193. 

Cornbread, 162-63. 

Deer, 163, 201. 
Dentistry, 173. 
Diseases, 171-72. 
Droving, of hogs, 219-22. 

Fairs, 214 ff. 

Family life, 161-62. 

Fights, 208-11. 

Fireplace, building of, and keeping 

fire in, 151, 160; for cooking, 162, 

Fires, for clearing the land, 157-58. 
Fishing, 164, 206-7. 
Flax, 167. 

Fletcher, Calvin, 214n. 
Fletcher, Stoughton, 214n. 
I'lood, Noah, 212. 
f'ood, 162-66. 

Game, 147, 153, 164, 197-206. 
Hardens, 164-65. 

Gill, , 185-87. 

Girdling and deadening, 154-55. 

Harding, Israel, 215-16. 

Hawkins, , holds school, 176- 


Health, 171-73. 

Hogs, raising of, 163, 218-19; at 
fair, 214-15; droving to market, 
219-22; prices received for, 221-22. 

Hominy, 163. 

Hoover Mill, 189, 190, 191. 

Horses, 158. 

Hound dogs, 204-5. 

Howland, Pamelia, 226-29. 

Howland, Powell, 226. 

Hunting, 195 ff. 

Indianapolis, 143-45; Martin Van 

Buren visits, 227. 
Indians, 174, 208. 
Ingold (or Ingole), Jonathan, 216n. 

Johnson, Ben, 170, 179. 

Johnson, Howard, 143-45, 230. 

Johnson, Jeremiah, 143-44, 145. 

Johnson, John (Pap), 143-45; makes 
oven, 166; makes shoes, 169-70; 
offers location for school, 174; 
gets corn from Conner brothers, 
193-94; on bear hunt, 202-4; goes 
fishing, 206-7; involved in fights, 
208, 209-10; wins prizes at fair, 

Johnson, Louisa, 174, 176, 177. 




Johnson, Milton, 178, 197, 216; hunts 
'coon, 204-6. 

Johnson, Oliver, 144-45, 230; new 
shoes, 170; injures leg, 173; goes 
to school, 174 f { ; gets lost in snow 
storm, 177-78; goes to mill, 189 
ff; uses rifle for first time, 196- 
97 ; shoots squirrels, 197 ; wild 
turkeys, 199; goes 'coon hunting, 
205-6; goes fishing, 207; drives 
hogs to fair, 214; to market, 220- 
22 ; takes wheat to market, 222-24 ; 
courts and weds Pamelia How- 
land, 226-29. 

Johnson, Aunt Polly, 178. 

Johnson, Sarah Pursel (mother), 
145, 193, 199, 202-3, 229; house- 
hold chores, 161, 162, 163-64, 166; 
spins and sews, 168. 

Johnson, Tom, 143, 144, 202-4. 

Johnson's Woods, 229n. 

Lawrenceburg, 218, 222. 
Lawson, Jane, 143. 

Linch, , schoolmaster, 182-84. 

Linen, 167-68. 

Log cabins, building of, 149-52. 

Logrolling, 155-57. 

McDonald, Daniel, 229n. 

Maple sugar, 165. 

Marion County Agricultural Society, 

Meat, 163-64. 

Medicines and cures, 171-73. 
Mills, grist, 188-94. 

New Purchase, 143. 
"Niggerin," 155. 

Oxen, 158-59. 
Palmer House, 227. 

Parker, John C, 228. 
Patterson Mill, 191. 
Pheasants, 164, 200-1. 
Plowing, 153-54, 157, 158-59; con- 
test, 215-16. 
I'umpkin, 164-65. 
Pursel, Ben, 179, 226. 

Raccoon hunting, 204-6. 
Rifles, 195, 196, 199-200. 
Roads, 219. 

Schoolmasters, 175-76; ppactice of 

"turning out,'' 181 ff. 
Schools, 174 ff.; houses, 174-75; 

studies, 179-80. 
Shoes, 169^70. 
Shooting matches, 211-13. 
Spinning, 167-68. 
Spring Mill, 192. 
Squirrels, 164, 197-98. 
Stipp, Dr. George, 172. 
Sugar Flats, 147. 

Taverns, 220-21. 

Tea, 166. 

Timber, 147-48 ; cutting and clearing 

of, 153-58. 
Tobacco, 165. 
Turkeys, wild, 164, 198-200. 

Utensils, table, 166. 

Van Buren, Martin, 227. 

Wagons, 223. 

Weddings, 225-26, 228-29. 

Wells, 152. 

Wheat, 165-66; grinding of, 192-93; 

transported to Ohio River, 222. 
Whitinger MiU, 190. 
Woods, 147-48 ; cutting and clearing, 

Wool, 168.